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Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Big Parade (1925) - a spectacular success for a war movie, directed by King Vidor

The Big Parade was one of the biggest successes of the Silent Era, a movie that made the name of its director (King Vidor) and its leading stars (John Gilbert and Renée Adorée) as very successful actors (Renée unfortunately did not live very long to build a big career, she was diagnosed with TB and died within a few years). The movie earned more than $22 million worldwide, a huge success for a film in the silent era. The movie was bitter-sweet for King Vidor since he developed a huge reputation as a director, but he surrendered his 20% of net profits for the movie after being convinced that 20% of net from this movie would not amount to much.
The movie was later selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The movie set the trend for a number of war movies of the future, by not glorifying war, instead showing the leading character as having lost a leg in the conflict.

The movie can be separated into 2 clean sections, with the first section being the story of a rich kid wanting to join the army (given the glamor that the army provides, if you see the uniform, parades and other glamor), and you would expect him to struggle to fit in. However, he settles in pretty easily, makes 2 very close buddies, and also gains a French girl-friend Melisande (Renee Adoree) in the French village where his unit is posted. For a war movie, the first half can seem a bit slow at times, given that they also spend time in developing the love story.
And then the unit is given orders to move out, and be ready to join the actual battle. The First World War was a war unlike any the world had seen before, with snipers, automatic guns, mustard gas, trench warfare, etc. And these buddies end up in the same trench, where they are pinned by a German machine gunner and have to take him out, and one of them has to do it. And yet, when they see the actual enemy soldier, he is just a kid.

The Big Parade (1925) - a spectacular success for a war movie, directed by King Vidor

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