Introducing The Big Parade, the first film in the silent era to realistically portray what war is really like from the point of view of a soldier. This film is about a man who is encouraged by his father to enlist in the army where he forms a bond with his fellow soldiers, stays with his squad when they’re in combat, and is stuck in a love triangle between his fiancé and a French girl he meets while away.
This quote perfectly sums up what this movie is trying to tell the audience- war, just what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Okay, so I added a quote with another quote. Sue me! So this film made history in a lot of ways. It was the most successful box office hit of the silent era, surpassing 22 million dollars! It was also the most successful MGM film of the silent era. I wouldn’t necessarily call this film a propaganda film towards supporting the war or being against it. It’s just showing war for what it is. You defend your country but there’s always dire consequences that can be tragic and life-changing. The first half of the film is much lighter where we are introduced to Jim’s squadron as well as the love story. Then the second half takes a darker turn as the men hide in a hole in the ground to avoid gunfire.
I really liked the love story in The Big Parade. It seems like in a lot of war films they seem to add some type of love triangle. Probably just to show that war can change you and see people differently. I especially loved the scene when Jim and Melisande find each other and give each other a warm embrace before he’s to be shipped off to war. When I think about it, the ending reminds me of Rocky how he fights the battle and the most important thing to him isn’t winning but to keep the one he loves close to him. The Big Parade ended up inspiring many other war films later such as Quiet on the Western Front. If you like films of love and war, this is the one to see.
Watch this realistic depiction of war in The Big Parade. Unfortunately, this was the only copy I can find and it’s not on streaming sites. Try your best to enjoy this version and you can follow along with the inter-titles here: http://www.filmsite.org/bigp.html. You can buy the film on YouTube for $2.99: