King Vidor’s The Big Parade is a war picture that sparked such an interest in the American public that they went to see it in droves. Indeed, it was such a huge success that it went on to become the highest grossing film of the silent era. No surprise that it’s made the list, then. But just because it’s the highest grossing silent film doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good, right? Well, rest assured, this is indeed a good picture, though to say any more than that might be stretching a little.
The Big Parade is the story of Jim Apperson, a well-to-do young man who enlists in the army when the Great War comes along. It follows his life as he goes to war, makes new friends, falls in love, and gets his first taste of battle. The story is appealing to just about any crowd, which probably explained much of the film’s success. As to whether modern viewers will take to it just as easily, it can get a bit wishy-washy and unfocused in the middle section, but for the most part it handles itself very well. This was much more watchable than Vidor’s other films on the list, as good as they were; this just seemed so much more accessible. It’s filmed very nice; nothing too outstanding, but it’s not muddled or square like some other silents I’ve seen as of late.
I mentioned in a previous review of a Vidor film that he seems to make films that are altogether simple, but are ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Nothing could be truer about The Big Parade. It’s made very basically, but for some reason, becomes very memorable in the end. This is one that will stick with you, mostly for how much it is different from other war pictures of the time, but also because it is sincere, which is rare in an era of films that all were trying to sell you on their particular stories. Definitely give this one a go.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10