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The Big Parade
IMDB Rating: 8.3/10 from 4,668 votes
Release: 1926 (Austria) /

The Big Parade

Genre: Drama, Romance, War
Director: King Vidor,
Stars: , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: The idle son of a rich businessman joins the army when the U.S.A. enters World War One. He is sent to France, where he becomes friends with two working-class soldiers. He also falls in love with a Frenchwoman, but has to leave her to move to the frontline. Written by Philip Apps <apps@math.wisc.edu>

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Critic Reviews


One of the great films of all time. John Gilbert stars as a callow lad from a wealthy family who joins up at the start of World War I. The film follows him through his early days in the army, his days in rural France, and then his time at the front, and finally his return home.

King Vidor directs this amazing film, one of the best war films ever made, with touches of humor and irony, but never losing sight of the horrors and stupidity of war.

John Gilbert would have won the Oscar for 1925 if the awards had started then. He's simply superb as Jack. You watch his eyes as this films goes on. In the beginning his eyes twinkle with glee and delight as he makes friends, finds love, and grows into manhood. Then his eyes change and go dead as he experiences war. This is one of the great silent film performances.

But the film also boasts great work from Renee Adoree as Melisande and Karl Dane as the Swede. Co-stars are Tom O'Brien as Bull, Hobart Bosworth and Claire McDowell as the parents.

The TCM copy I have has a incredible score by Carl Davis. There is one scene when Gilbert is off to the front and he can't find Adoree. The music is a discordant mishmash of previously heard tunes, and the music grows louder and louder until they find each other. The scene that follows is heartbreaking and unforgettable.

But this film is full of great scenes, including the one where Gilbert teaches Adoree to chew gum. So simple yet so charming. Then there's the shower scene where Gilbert has gotten a wine barrel (hilarious) so the guys can have a shower.

There is a great title card that reads simple: IT HAD BEGUN..... So few words and yet so full of meaning. The battle images are among the best and bring the full horror of war home. Vidor assembles amazing scenes of men marching in line to death, of men trapped in shell holes, of planes swooping over the bombed-out fields. This is an incredible movie.

TCM host Robert Osborne mentions that THE BIG PARADE played for an astounding 95 consecutive weeks in New York and that it rivalled THE BIRTH OF A NATION and GONE WITH THE WIND as the biggest money-making film of all time. This is the film that, along with THE MERRY WIDOW, made John Gilbert the king of Hollywood in 1925. And his crown was well deserved; he is magnificent.

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