Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cavalcade (1933)

Adapted from the popular Noel Coward play, 1933 Best Picture Cavalcade recaps the end of the 19th century up until 1932, through the eyes of a well to do British couple. With them you witness the end of the second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the Titanic, the first world war, and the stock market crash. No, wait. They missed that last one.

20-something Diana Wynyard delightfully overacts as Jane Marryot, earning her a best actress nomination. 40-something Clive Brook is her husband. They have two young sons, and a housekeeper played by Una O'Connor. Perhaps you remember her as the housekeeper in Bride of Frankenstein or the housekeeper in Witness for the Prosecution. Here, at 45, she is believable at the end when she is supposed to be "elderly".

Ed, the level-headed son, meets his true love, gets married, then goes on their honeymoon on the Titanic. That didn't work out so well.

Joey, the other son, thinks the escalating violence in Europe is simply Marvelous, so he enlists. Mustard gas and trench warfare is so absolutely Marvelous. At a USO show he sees childhood friend Fanny (Una's daughter) for the first time in years and thinks she is simply Marvelous. They strike up a relationship and go about thinking how everything is so Marvelous.

Mom learns of her son's relationship with a housekeepers daughter and doesn't think it very marvelous. All is right when later in the conversation she learns that, just prior to armistice, young Joey has died. Queue dramatic speech, then prat fall to the rug.

Cavalcade ends being cautiously optimistic about the future. Huh. Same year Hitler took power. Well, whatdoyaknow ...

This movie had a lot going for it. The cinematography and sets were truly remarkable and the subject matter was captivating to 1933 audiences. But the movie, for modern audiences, has a lot going against it. The story line is a string of world events that simply don't resonate with someone who knows of Auschwitz and Hiroshima. You never truly relate with the characters. And as this film has never come out on DVD (and I get videos from the library), I had to deal with significant tape hiss. Oh, and the OVER ACTING!

Because of the weak story line and no longer inspiring subject matter, Cavalcade is a snoozer. While I'll never watch it again, I think it would hold up to a second viewing. Throughout much of this movie I was thinking of an AMRU score of 2.5, but in the end I give it a 3. Had there been a fully restored DVD version with a song or two clipped to make the play time a little more reasonable, I would have enjoyed it much more.

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