King Vidor's harrowing WWI drama was the first realistic war film ever made, and for many years it would be the paradigm for the genre. It stars John Gilbert as Jim Apperson, a charming idler from a wealthy background. When war is declared in 1917, even the phlegmatic layabout is caught up in the public excitement and impulsively enlists in the army, surprising his stern father (Hobart Bosworth). After a whirlwind of basic training, he's off to France with fellow conscripts Bull (Tom O'Brien), a bartender, and Slim (Karl Dane), a riveter. While waiting to be sent to the front, the three kill time with horseplay and practical jokes. One of the jokes leads to a meeting with peasant girl Melisande (Renee Adoree), and she and Jim begin to see each other, but just as they've overcome the language barrier, he's called to the front. The nightmarish reality of trench warfare will permanently alter the young man's life. Adapted from the story WHAT PRICE GLORY by Laurence Stallings, the film that MGM feared would alienate audiences proved to be its most successful until the release of GONE WITH THE WIND. Apart from the scenes of low comedy, the film is as fresh as ever, and in sequences such as Jim's return home, it remains just as devastating as it must have been in 1925.
This classic World War I epic set the standard and established the conventions for war films for years to come. Its realistic battle scenes--showing the front line marching toward the enemy virtually unprotected, only to get picked off, one by one--made a powerful antiwar statement. The emotion-filled story focuses on an American troop stationed in France; the soldiers all come from different backgrounds, but they quickly overcome their differences and form a tight unit. But the war takes its toll as many of the men die or get seriously wounded. And for one American soldier--who has fallen in love with a French woman--the stakes are higher; as the war carries him farther and farther from her, he wonders if both he and she will stay alive long enough to see each other once again.
World War I
Theatrical release: November 5, 1925.
Shooting locations: Los Angeles, California, and San Antonio, Texas.
THE BIG PARADE was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1992.
During the famed "march of death" scene, King Vidor had a drum beat the marching rhythm for the extras and required them to perform all actions, such as falling, only on the beat.
Vidor made use of a handheld Akeley camera to better capture the reality of trench warfare, something rarely seen in features of the period.
Playwright and screenwriter Laurence Stallings lost his leg at Belleau Wood.
The film was selected to the National Film Registry, Library of Congress, in 1992.
THE BIG PARADE was the highest grossing silent film in its day.