October 28, 2013


 photo ScreenShot2013-10-28at1243.jpg

 photo ScreenShot2013-09-20at123915AM.jpg  photo ScreenShot2013-09-20at124652AM.jpg  photo ScreenShot2013-09-20at15419AM.jpg  photo ScreenShot2013-09-20at23446AM.jpg A little over 80 years ago, some Brits got together over tea and crumpets and pondered about the state of British cinema. "I'll say, we sure love being British," one said aloud, "why don't we go about making the biggest, most British epic ever?" All his peers' mouths were agape as they dropped their crumpets into their cups of Earl Grey in reaction to this excellent idea. "That's a splendid idea, isn't it?" they exclaimed, and off they went to draft the script for what would surely be a 100+ minute spectacle. "But what time period should this story cover?" one man asked. "I'll say, I don't know. All events that have affected us Brits are so equally important, how about we just touch on everything major that's ever happened in Britannia over the last 30 or so years?" And with that, Cavalcade was born.

Okay, so none of that was real, but that's the scenario that played out in my head as I was suffering sitting through Cavalcade, wondering why this film exists. Originally a successful play by Noel Coward, someone (Director/Producer Frank Lloyd and Producer Winfield Sheehan) felt that it'd be a good idea to turn said play into a film. Good intentions...sure. But Cavalcade is the most grossly self-indulgent film I've watched in a very long time--it's as if Lloyd and Sheehan really wanted to educate the world about British history, so much so that the end result feels like a painfully dreadful and dreadfully condensed course: History 101: Topics of British History (1899-1933). Cavalcade touches base on every major event to have happened in that time period--firstly the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the Titanic sinking, and World War I--all the while squeezing in horrid tangential stories on the main and secondary characters.

Now back to my complaint of self-indulgence--the death of Queen Victoria serves nothing to the story besides providing a dramatic moment where all the people of Britain get sad for a hot minute. As an American, this event has no emotional relevance to me. It feels terribly calculated and actually kind of condescending, as if this was Lloyd's/Coward's chance to enlighten my simple American mind on just how heavy and important a moment it was when the Queen passed. Don't even get me started on the Titanic sinking--I'm not sure I've ever seen such a historically important event executed so hastily in a film. What's more is that we don't even witness a sinking--we're forced to sit through a cheesy 5 minute exchange between son and wife about how they'd feel if they were to die that very night (answer: they wouldn't care if they died because they're so happy because they're so in love), and it isn't until they walk off camera that we see a life ring with the TITANIC on it. It's as if Coward was thinking, "I need to have one of the sons die, but his death still has to be very British mind you--I'll have him die on the Titanic!" There's not a moment during this entire film when I didn't feel as though a bunch of deeply patriotic Brits were forcibly shoving their pride down my throat.

Even the story lines of the characters have serious issues--there are so many lapses in time to complement all these damn events happening that we're expected to just go with the flow whenever there's a change in characterization. What, Bridges went from happy faithful servant to angry alcoholic without much explanation? Oh, Edward and Edith are conveniently in love now? Now they're married? Now they're dead? Wait so now Joe and Fanny are conveniently in love now? And now Joe's dead? Add to this all the random musical numbers squeezed in there for no reason at all and the horrible acting by quite a few members of the cast (though my side-eye is specifically aimed at you, guy who plays adult Joe)--and what we end up with is a sloppy catastrophe of a film trying much too hard to be an important piece of work. There's a reason why Cavalcade had never been released on DVD/Blu-ray until this last August.

You know when you're talking to someone, and you've got a story to tell, and you're really revved up about it and you really want to share this story, and you have the faintest feeling that the person you're telling the story to doesn't care about anything you're saying but you just go ahead and word vomit your story out anyways? That is Cavalcade in cinematic form.


  1. Totally agree - a completely awful movie from start to finish.

    1. Fritz, Oscar really chose some duds in the early years. In the first six years alone we've got The Broadway Melody, Cimarron, and this. Eesh. I'm torn between whether I hate Broadway Melody or this more--I guess I'd have to rewatch both to determine that, but that would be torture.