Big Parade

The Big Parade

Director: King Vidor

Cast: John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Hobart Bosworth

     
 

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The Big Parade was designed as a modest programmer concerning one young man's disillusionment in the face of war. When the MGM executives took a look at the projection-room rushes, they gave director King Vidor the go-ahead to film an all-out "spectacular," which ended up running 13 reels and costing a then-astronomical $382,000. Shorn of his matinee-idol…  See more details below

Overview

The Big Parade was designed as a modest programmer concerning one young man's disillusionment in the face of war. When the MGM executives took a look at the projection-room rushes, they gave director King Vidor the go-ahead to film an all-out "spectacular," which ended up running 13 reels and costing a then-astronomical $382,000. Shorn of his matinee-idol mustache, John Gilbert is perfect as an all-American-boy who signs up for World War I service, dreaming of adventure and glory. The first half of the film is taken up with the jocular byplay between Gilbert and his army buddies Tom O'Brien and Karl Dane. These scenes seem to take forever, especially to those awaiting the big battle sequences that the MGM advertising copy had promised. But Vidor's slow buildup had its purpose; by lulling the audience into complacency, the director was able to shock the viewers with the horrors of war as suddenly and effectively as the doughboys had been shocked back in 1918. Gilbert survives the war, but returns home minus one leg (the film's script was written by Laurence Stallings, himself a war vet and amputee). MGM head Louis Mayer was terrified that the scenes of a crippled Gilbert would offend his fans, so he ordered that "protection" footage be shot with Gilbert being merely wounded, but with both legs intact. So powerful were the climactic scenes between Gilbert and his parents, however, that not one preview audience ever demanded that the alternate ending be shown. The film's many highlights includes the cute scene in which Gilbert teaches French girl Renee Adoree how to chew gum; the famous shot of Adoree desperately clinging to Gilbert as he and his fellow soldiers march to the front; the chilling Belleau wood sequence, in which the soldiers, walking stealthily amidst the tall trees, are picked off one by one by snipers; and the heart-rending reunion sequence, in which Gilbert's mother (Claire McDowell) embraces her amputee son as she flashes back to the time that he took his first steps. The only concession to MGM formula was in having Gilbert depicted as a wealthy young man, living in a mansion the size of Rhode Island. Though its original impact has been blunted by years of imitations, The Big Parade remains an unforgettable movie experience.

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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Lucia Bozzola
The first major American war film about World War I since D.W. Griffith's Hearts of the World (1918) and a key film in the development of the genre, King Vidor's The Big Parade (1925) effectively blended a punishing spectacle of warfare with the personal trials of one American doughboy. Based on a story by What Price Glory? scribe Laurence Stallings, and starring John Gilbert as the soldier, The Big Parade was originally intended to be a smaller production. When MGM exec Irving Thalberg saw the footage of improvised vignettes like a battlefield rapprochement between Gilbert and a dying German soldier, however, he urged Vidor to expand the film. The move paid off, as The Big Parade was lauded for the landmark realism of its battle scenes and the sensitive love story between Gilbert and Renée Adorée's French girl, establishing Vidor and the newly merged MGM studio's artistic prestige. The biggest box office hit of the 1920s, The Big Parade played for 86 straight weeks in New York and confirmed Gilbert's place as one of the top stars of the decade. It remained MGM's biggest moneymaker until (what else?) 1939's Gone With the Wind.

Product Details

Release Date:
10/01/2013
UPC:
0883929265084
Original Release:
1925
Rating:
NR
Source:
Turner Home Ent
Sound:
[DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound]
Time:
2:31:00
Sales rank:
29,677

Special Features

Audio Commentary by Historian Jeffrey Vance with Director King Vidor; Vintage short 1925 studio tour; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
John Gilbert James Apperson
Renée Adorée Melisande
Hobart Bosworth Mr. Apperson
Claire McDowell Mrs. Apperson
Claire Adams Justyn Reed
Karl Dane Slim
Robert Ober Harry
Tom O'Brien Bull
Rosita Marstini Melisande's Mother
Rosita Marshni French Mother

Technical Credits
King Vidor Director
John Arnold Cinematographer
William Axt Score Composer
James Basevi Art Director
Harry Behn Screenwriter
Carl Davis Score Composer
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
David Mendoza Score Composer
Laurence Stallings Original Story
Irving G. Thalberg Producer
Hugh Wynn Editor

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