The Big Parade (1925)

Film Review

THE BIG PARADE

Release Date: 5 November, 1925

Studio: MGM

Director: King Vidor

Starring: John Gilbert, Renee Adoree

Special Notes: TCM Classic Film Festival, 2013

This film was featured as part of the Essentials category at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival. Films shown in the Essentials category at the festival are meant to demonstrate filmmaking at its highest level and films that have enduring value.

Synopsis

After the US enters WWI, Gilbert enlists. Stationed in a French village, he meets Adoree, and they fall in love. She clings desperately to his transport as he goes with his company to the battle. The company marches through woods into the battle. Men are shot down all around, but the soldiers continue walking toward the German lines. Reaching the front, Gilbert and his friends shelter in a foxhole. His friends are killed, and Gilbert is severely wounded by machine gun fire. He wakes up in a military hospital. His leg has been partially amputated. He is sent home where his proud parents greet him. After the war, Gilbert returns to France. On the country road near her village, he and Adoree joyfully reunite.

Discussion

One of the most famous and the biggest moneymaking films of the silent era, its great success shot King Vidor to the head of his profession. Laurence Stallings, who wrote the story and had himself lost a leg in the war, did not want John Gilbert. He feared that Gilbert would not be forceful and that his presence would make the film "a confection". However, Gilbert gives a strong, unaffected, and sympathetic performance. In a famous scene, Gilbert teaches Adoree how to chew gum. The chewing gum routine was an accidental addition to the screenplay. Donald Ogden Stewart, author and screenwriter, who was visiting the set, happened to be chewing gum which gave Vidor the idea.