THE BIG PARADE (1925) B/W "silent" 126m dir: King Vidor
w/John Gilbert, Renee Adore, Karl Dane, Hobart Bosworth, Claire McDowell, Tom O'Brien, George K. Arthur
A "silent" film classic and one of the great war movies, this film balances the drama of ordinary souls whose lives are altered by WWI with sweeping battle sequences that are among the most harrowing ever captured on celluloid. A stirring, impassioned war epic.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "After directing this film King Vidor said: 'The war has now become a human thing, and after ten years the human values predominate, everything else becoming insignificant. We have searched for the individual side more than the mass. We have shown the heart struggles of the hero, his girl, his mother, and his comrades. We have not ignored the enormity of what was going on around them, but we have seen it through their eyes. The human comedy emerges from a terrifying tragedy. The poetry and the romance, the atmosphere, the rhythm and the tempo all find their proper place. Some units of the Second Division that fought in the Argonne have re-created the battles for us and a 'Boche' (today a peaceful American citizen) told us the exact positioning of the German machine guns. When a nation declares war, the people fight it without asking why. But the last war posed a question for all time: Why are there wars? I am certainly not in favor of wars but I did not want to preach against them.'
"The Big Parade was, however, presented in France under the slogan 'A film to make you hate war' with the praise of Major Joffre ('All my compliments for this beautiful spectacle') and of General Gourand ('I must tell you what a splendid evening I had').
"The much-mutilated French version provoked, as did the publicity, the indignation of the left. Moussinac judged the film 'false, artificial, vulgar, no human accent, not a cry of truth.' This is too strong: the scenes of military training, the endless lines of troops and trucks moving up to the front, the faces of the soldiers, are moving and true. But Vidor was wrong in thinking he had created 'a surprising realism in the scenes of French village life.' In these scenes, Renee Adoree 'dressed like a burlesque miller's wife' (Moussinac) is as ridiculous as the papier-mâché sets. The film had a worldwide success and made its director famous."