Cast and Crew: Irving Thalberg (Producer); Laurence Stallings (Screenplay and Original Story);
What It’s About: When the U.S. enters the Great War, three men from very different backgrounds enlist-wealthy and idle James Apperson (John Gilbert), beanpole riveter Slim (Karl Dane), and bartender Bull (Tom O’Brien). The men become friends and while away some time behind the lines on a French farm, where Apperson meets, and falls in love with, Melisande (Rene Adore). This idle ends when the unit marches to the front and the men encounter the horror of trench warfare first hand.
Why Watch it Today?: The United States Congress approved the declaration of war against Germany today in 1917. The Big Parade is a “Hollywood” take on the war, relatively sober compared to many later war films, but focused on a love story and lacking gritty realism, even if it accurately portrays war as costly. Still, in spite of these limitations, The Big Parade is one of the great silent films, earning director King Vidor his reputation, and, features a moving personal story in the midst of war.
Where to Get It: Some Public libraries (VHS only); otherwise not legitimately available except for TCM’s occasional Sunday night airings.