The Big Parade is a 1925 silent film. It tells the story of an idle rich boy who joins the US Army's Rainbow Division and is sent to France to fight in World War I, becomes friends with two working class men, experiences the horrors of trench warfare, and finds love with a French girl.
The film was groundbreaking for not glorifying the war or its human costs, exemplified by the lead character's loss of a leg from battle wounds. It heavily influenced all subsequent war films, especially All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). It was adapted by Harry Behn and King Vidor (uncredited) from the play by Joseph Farnham and the autobiographical novel Plumes by Laurence Stallings, and directed by Vidor. It stars John Gilbert, Renée Adorée, Claire Adams, Karl Dane, Robert Ober and Tom O'Brien.
The Big Parade was one of the greatest hits of the 1920s, boosting Gilbert's career, and making Adorée a major star. Tragically, Renée Adorée would soon be diagnosed with tuberculosis and die only a few years later. The film is the highest grossing silent film in cinema history, grossing $18–$22 million. In some larger cities this film was shown for a year or more continuously.
After the film's producers found a clause in Vidor's contract, entitling the director to 20% of the net profits, studio lawyers called for a meeting with him. At this meeting, accountants played up the costs of the picture while downgrading their forecast of its potential success. King Vidor was thus persuaded to sell his stake in the film before receiving his percentage. However, the film's tremendous success did establish Vidor as one of MGM's top directors for the rest of his career.
In 1992 The Big Parade was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The film was re-issued in 1931 with a sound-track consisting of William Axt's score. Composer Carl Davis created a new orchestral score for the film in the 1980s (quoting the theme associated with Melisande in Axt's original setting), and it was restored and released on video in the late 1980s as part of the MGM and British television Thames Silents project.
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