The Big Parade is remembered as the first great anti-war film and the first to treat U.S. intervention in World War I with any degree of realism. It’s less and more than that. Commercially, it was King Vidor’s breakthrough, after twenty back-to-back features in the six years before 1925. The film’s success-it ran for two years at New York’s Astor Theatre-fully established Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, conglomerated only the year before. But if the title The Big Parade is ironic, it’s not all that ironic. The horrors of the first modern war are secondary to a coming-of-age tale: one pampered, rich American matures through extremes of male, female, and family trust made possible only by war itself. Vidor began with a passive hero: “I was playing with the idea that the man caused nothing in this film-he only reacted.” John Gilbert, ever keen to subvert his matinee idol image, gives a wide-ranging performance, comic, bitter, and accepting. Looking creakier now is the heavy slapstick as Gilbert billets in a French village, where he meets Renée Adorée, who-as working peasant, as European, as woman-is in every way his antithesis and challenge. The “Great War” brings several of Vidor’s most unforgettable sequences: the lovers’ parting, the march through Belleau Wood, and the hand-to-hand fighting in mortar craters. —BAM/PFA
King Wallis Vidor (February 8, 1894 – November 1, 1982) was an acclaimed American film director whose career spanned nearly seven decades.
He was born in Galveston, Texas, where he survived the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. His grandfather, Charles Vidor, was a refugee of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 who settled in Galveston in the early 1850s.
A freelance newsreel cameraman and cinema projectionist, he made his debut as a director in 1913 with Hurricane in Galveston. In Hollywood from 1915, he worked on a variety of film-related jobs before directing a feature film, The Turn in the Road, in 1919. A successful mounting of Peg o’ My Heart in 1922 got him a long term contract with Goldwyn Studios, later to be absorbed into MGM. Three years later he made The Big Parade, among the most acclaimed war films of the silent era, and a tremendous commercial success. This success established him as one of MGM’s top studio directors for the next decade. In 1928, Vidor received… read more
I can't stand American military films and manic depressive atmosphere no longer. Two scenes are great (boot and German soldier). Rest is stereotype which is still in use. additionally, mustacheless John Gilbert looks like Boardwalk Empire's Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza).
A brilliant masterpiece, this is one of the greatest war movies of all time, that proved its director to be a strong heir to Griffith's editing innovations. Vidor's themes are also very similar to Griffith's: basically, the Americana, or, in other words, a constant portrayal of the american society, history, politics and way of life. King Vidor, Griffith and John Ford are the definite american classic film-makers.
The second half of this King Vidor MGM spectacular features arguably the most realistic WWI battles scenes of all time, leaving the first half, which is quite playful and romantic, a distant memory. The quick, moving finale, with John Gilbert and Renee Adoree, is that much more hard earned for the brutal action scenes prior.
Unjustly forgotten today, The Big Parade was King Vidor’s moment of silent glory. It was the biggest movie moneymaker until Gone with the Wind, proving that the public wanted to see WWI discussed in… read review