Oscar Bait: Cavalcade

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)
Progress: 72/87

cavalcade-1933Title: Cavalcade
Director: Frank Lloyd
Year: 1933
Haul: 3 awards in total

Cavalcade had the dubious honour of being the only Best Picture winner to not have its own DVD release in the United States. Whilst it appears on a number of collections there is no specific Cavalcade release. I think this goes a long way to talk about the legacy left behind this film which beat well regarded classics like 42nd Street and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. It is also a film that was one of the highest grossing of 1933, so why does it lay alongside the likes of Cimarron as a Best Picture winner that has been forgotten? It’s fairly simple really; it is incredibly dated.

This film, based on the Noel Coward play of the same name, recounts 30 years in the life of a well-to-do London family as they go through the major events of the early 20th century. Touted as the ‘picture of the generation’ and ‘A love that suffered and rose triumphant above the crushing events of this modern age! The march of time measured by a mother’s heart!’ you can see why this film was so popular. We were in the Great Depression and a film that centred on someone overcoming the odds would be very appealing. The fact that a number of these events (which included the death of Queen Victoria and a rather tasteless use of the Titanic) would pale in comparison within the events of the subsequent 15 years… speaks volumes.

It isn’t just the events and the importance that is placed upon them that feels dated however. It is very easy to see that this film began life as a play since a lot of the acting and staging is still remaniscent of this. As such, many of the scenes feel a rather odd mixture of over the top and wooden. The storyline involving the servants (since this is a film set in Britain so OBVIOUSLY there is a life upstairs and a life downstairs split in the story) is, at times, infuriating since they are written with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. In fact the only time there was a real laugh in this film was because of a child screaming with rage at having not won a teddy bear in some beach sideshow. Also we have a number of needless musical scenes whose main purpose appears to be padding out the movie, with the exception of the final number which does act as a good closer.

In the end this is a film shows the benefit of hindsight when evaluating films and how things like the 20/20 Awards are a cool idea. The Academy Awards, like every award, make mistakes in terms of longevity. For every Casablanca and Gone With The Wind there is a Greatest Show On Earth and Gigi but I guess that is what makes watching all of these winning films so interesting.


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