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Wednesday, March 16th, 2005


When he first heard about the possibility of “talking pictures” taking over the industry, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. dismissed it. He claimed it was nothing for him to be concerned about. That said, he spent around $3 million (a huge sum in 1929) to make THE IRON MASK which proved to be his final silent film. When he realized that the talkies were indeed here to stay, he reportedly looked around the soundstage he was standing in and said, “The romance of the motion picture ends here.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. I passionately love silent films simply because they capture a sense of romance and poetry and beauty that even the most skillfully made talkie can never replicate. I always jump at the chance to see a silent film—even more so when there is live music. THE BIG PARADE is one of those silent films that I’ve longed to see for ages. I’m so glad that the film has been preserved!

THE BIG PARADE is about a young carefree irresponsible man who winds up fighting in WWI and falls in love with a French girl. John Gilbert is wonderful in the lead role. He has such a natural style that never feels forced or false. This film is so great because it has so many little moments that really count and make an impact. There is one scene where Gilbert teaches the French girl (the lovely Renee Adoree) how to chew gum. It is touching in its simplicity…and it works. There is also a scene where Gilbert leans up against a cart and starts to think about his girlfriend back home. You can literally see the guilt feelings and conflict in his eyes. You can literally see him thinking—now THAT’S great acting! (No dialogue necessary!) Karl Dane is also great as the big lumbering best friend. The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping as it lovingly captures both the tenderness of the romantic scenes and the horror of war.

I’ve always greatly admired the work of director King Vidor and this film certainly added to my appreciation. He was so diverse! His film THE CROWD is one of the most powerful and heartbreaking silents you’ll ever see. That same year he directed Marion Davies in the comedy gem SHOW PEOPLE. Having seen both of those films-it is amazing to think they were made by the same director. He had such a gift with comedy AND drama! Actors seem to flourish under his direction. No wonder he had such a long career.

The music was provided by a 22 piece orchestra led by Robert Israel. Listing to a live orchestra with the film adds so much to the overall experience! In big cities such as LA and NY this was routine in the silent era!

Since so much work has gone into the restoration, I really hope that this films gets screened in other cities and even gets a DVD release.

This film reminded me once again why I love silents so much and why the minute talkies debuted things were never ever the same.

Written by Karie (site owner) on 03/16 at 12:29 AM

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