The Big Parade

1925

The Big Parade

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 11

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 787
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Movie Info

Rich, clean-cut American hero John Gilbert plunges into World War I and some of the most emotionally shattering battle scenes ever filmed.

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Critic Reviews for The Big Parade

All Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for The Big Parade

  • Mar 02, 2018
    I found it tough to rate this film, because the strength of its WWI action footage is offset by a weak build-up and silly romance. The film is commendable in showing us the horrors of war in a dramatic hellscape, but at 151 minutes, it's far too long, and would have been better if the 90 minute build-up had been edited down. It's to great fanfare that a rich young American (John Gilbert) enlists, and it is nice that the film (eventually) contrasts this tone of those scenes to the reality of war, since this is precisely the disillusionment the world went through. He befriends a couple of blue collar guys (Karl Dane and Tom O'Brien), and oddly enough, there's very little concept of military command early on. The men go to France, get settled into a village, and after inexplicably shoveling a manure pile the first night, they're free to carouse about and hit on the local women, one of whom is Renee Adoree. The film moves at a snail's pace, with drawn out scenes and gags that aren't funny, culminating in a highly melodramatic goodbye scene with Adoree when the men are finally called up to the front. Here is where the film gets interesting, though it's not until the 105 minute point before we see anything that resembles authenticity. At first our heroes are walking calmly through a forest while snipers shoot at them, advancing despite soldiers falling until they reach a tree line, at which point the Germans simply raise their hands in surrender. Good grief. Eventually they reach pockmarked, barren fields, and after facing explosions and chemical weapons, hunker down. The film's silly tone is finally broken when one of them is hit, and another screams out into the night "I came to fight - not to wait and rot in a lousy hole while they murder my pal! Waiting! Orders! Mud! Blood! Stinking stiffs! What the hell do we get out of this war anyway!" before crawling out and trying to save him. Upon finding him dead, he screams "They got him! They got him! GOD DAMN THEIR SOULS!" and then charges a machine gun nest. It's meant to have high emotional impact, and at least it's action, but it seems a little ridiculous. It does get better still though, and I have to give the film credit for showing the devastating impact of war. The cinematography is awe-inspiring and frightening. Men advance like ghostly zombies through smoke, gunfire, and explosions, emerging through haze in darkened scenes splashed with pyrotechnics. There is a touching scene with an enemy soldier in a pothole, impressive as it predates 'All Quiet on the Western Front'. The human empathy and feeling that we're all brothers resonates all the more, having come just moments after a murderous rage. The aftermath is also good. I loved the brief scene in the hospital, the shots of the French abandoning bombed out buildings, and later the family reunion. As mother and son embrace, director King Vidor overlays a powerful montage of maternal memories of the boy through the years, my favorite sequence. The last 45 minutes has gravitas, fantastic scenes, and a real message, and is easily 4 out of 5 stars. However, I can't overlook the first 105 minutes, and it's unlikely I would want to watch the film again because of them.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2012
    King Vidor's "The Big Parade" is the biggest blockbuster from the silent era, and became the gold standard to which all others were compared well into the 1930s. The story focuses on three American doughboys, fighting in Europe during WWI. Two are working class; a tobacco spitting riveter, Slim, a barkeep, Bull, and a ne'er-do-well son of wealth, Jim, who was shamed into enlisting by his family. These three go through the hardships of military training together, bond, and become fast friends. Their friendships deepen after they are shipped to France where Jim falls in love with a French farm girl. This comprises the first half of the 2 1/2 hour movie. The second half of the movie is the gritty reality of trench warfare. Some say that this is one of the first big-budget anti-war movies. I'd take issue with that, but the film does show the human cost of war without condemning it outright. Remember that WWI was 'the war to end all wars', and in 1925 this was still a possibility. But "The Big Parade" does take an unflinching look at the affect of war on both combatants and non-combatants. The performances and direction are excellent and silent or not, this is a movie well worth seeing.
    Jonathan H Super Reviewer
  • Oct 18, 2011
    Every possible cliché that nowadays has taken the form of melodrama and cheesines had (perhaps) its earliest origin in King Vidor's invigorating war drama: the character development before the catastrophe, the typical patriotic American being sent with his friends into the frontline, the lover of foreign language, the hard departure of the lovers, the return of the wounded soldier to the family, etc. In my humble opinion, American audiences have never accepted unconventional films as great ones until decades later. As weird and shocking Vidor's technique of splitting the movie in two was, it was still a giant financial success, and highly effective plot-wise. The problem is (and I beg you to keep in mind) the following: everything that <i>The Big Parade</i> features, you have already seen it. However, it acquires a meaning. Really. 99/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer
  • Jan 10, 2011
    Quite liked it. The first half was better than the latter. It didn't feel as messy as most silents do. I was also impressed at how realistic it was. Especially for it's time.
    Lauren D Super Reviewer

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