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Cavalcade [Blu-ray] [1933] [US Import]

4.7 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00D3K357O
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,095 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Noel Coward's massive achievement, telling the story of a family from the Boer War to the early years of the 20th century, was brought to the screen in this Oscar winning 1933 version. Despite its age, the power of Coward's original shines through. It's quite clear where the writers of Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey got their "inspiration", too. Despite being a U.S. Import, this BluRay played with no problems on my UK player.
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Format: Blu-ray
Noel Coward's CAVALCADE was a huge success in its day and is now a time capsule of British attitudes after the First World War and the Roaring 20s that followed. It can easily be seen as the precursor of several period BBC dramas that followed in its wake including the iconic UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS and now DOWNTON ABBEY. The storyline focuses on two families. One of them is upper class while the other family is from their household staff. Robert and Jane Marryot (Clive Brook & Diana Wynyard) live in a posh London home presided over by servants Alfred and Ellen Bridges (Herbert Mundin & Una O'Connor). The Marryots have two sons, Edward & Joey, while the Bridges' have a newborn baby girl, Fanny. The film opens in 1899 with Robert and Alfred setting out to serve in the Boer War. After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, the Bridges' leave and open a pub and things start to go downhill for them from there. Robert is later knighted for his military service but shortly thereafter a tragic event occurs. And so it goes. We see a series of vignettes of both families over the next 30 years ending the year the film was made.

To direct Coward's 1931 play, Fox Film (no Twentieth Century-Fox yet) chose Scottish born director Frank Lloyd who had made a memorable silent version of Charles Dickens' A TALE OF TWO CITIES for them 16 years earlier. Lloyd would win a Best Director Oscar for CAVALCADE and another 2 years later for his best known film, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY. While parts of the film are dated now, it's great to hear the songs and musical numbers that Coward sprinkled throughout the show. In addition to being remarkably anti-war, CAVALCADE was equally nostalgic for the passing of the Victorian & Edwardian eras.
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I haven't watched it yet but I'm really happy to have it in my collection.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars 73 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twentieth Century Blues 24 Jan. 2007
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
We always think of Noel Coward as being this hip, ironic, sophisticated glibster but at heart he wasall mush and my, oh my, did he love England, everything about it, especially its aristocracy. CAVALCADE the movie is a faithful recreation of his showstopping London hit, the one that made him a respectable man of the theater, instead of just an angry young man. If you had a copy of his play in hand while following the movie you would see how extraordinarily the screenplay follows the show, though director Frank Lloyd fails to make use of cinema techniques (like a split screen) that must have been available to him even in the early talkie days? However it's not as clunky or static as some have made out, and scene after scene unrolls at a stately, but yet somehow hypnotic and indeed sometimes shocking clip.

Diana Wynyard isn't to everyone's taste but if you like your Norma Shearer and wish that she had somehow surpassed her own levels of emotional hysteria, than Diana is the girl for you! She's like a manic Norma Shearer, her expressive eyes and quivering contralto like Shearer squared. Watch her long fleshy arms as she reaches down to hug her little boy. If she said any more with them she'd have been arrested. Occasionally her servant counterpart, Una O'Connor, threatens to steal the show from Wynyard, but that don't happen, even in the fantastic scenes when the two women quarrel over their children's plan to marry.

William Cameron Menzies gave the screen some of its finest special effects and art design, and here the bombing of London during World War I, while Fanny and Joey watch from a nearby balcony, is magnificent and horrifying at the same time, like Thomas Pynchon's GRAVITY'S RAINBOW. The montage at the end of CAVALCADE has got to be one of the most astounding sequences ever filmed, as Lloyd and Coward show us flashes of different responses to postwar "unfaith," a Communist demagogue, a Christian priest (preaching to a near-empty congregation), an armament mogul, an atheist ("God is too crude a superstition to foist on our children"--cinema hasn't been so bold in seventy years since!), and finally a slow pan across a decadent 20s sex party, in which every sort of sexuality is on display, a young girl frightened at the advances of a middle-aged woman; a pair of he-men swapping bracelets; one young vamp, bending slightly to adjust volume on an art deco radio cabinet, radiates sin with the movement of a single finger.
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable But Stylistically Dated 27 Mar. 2003
By Gary F. Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
CAVALCADE is an extremely good example of films made in the first few years following the advent of sound, an era in which actors, directors, writers, and cinematographers struggled to find a new style that could comfortably accomodate the new technology. During this period, many actors and writers were drawn from the stage--only to discover that what seems real and natural in the theatre seems heavily mannered on screen.

This is certainly the case with CAVALCADE. The film presents the story of two London families whose lives intertwine between 1900 and 1933. The film begins with the upperclass Marryot family and their servants, Mr. and Mrs. Bridges, facing the Boer War--and then through a series of montages and montage-like scenes follows the fortunes of the two families as they confront changing codes of manners and social class and various historic events ranging from the sinking of the Titanic to World War I.

From a modern standpoint, the really big problem with the film is the script. CAVALCADE was written for the stage by Noel Coward, who was one of the great comic authors of the 20th Century stage--but the sparkling edge that seems so flawless in his comic works acquires a distastefully "precious" quality when applied to drama. Although the play was a great success in its day, it is seldom revived, and the dialogue of the film version leaves one in little doubt of why: it feels ridiculously artificial, and that quality is emphasized by the "grand manner" of the cast.

That said, the cast--in spite of the dialogue and their stylistically dated performances--is quite good. This is particularly true of the two leading ladies, Diana Wynyard and Una O'Connor (best known for her appearances in THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKESTEIN), both of whom have memorable screen presences that linger in mind long after the film ends. The material is also quite interesting and startlingly modern; although it is more covert than such films as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, CAVALCADE has a decidedly anti-war slant, and the characters in the film worry about where technology (which has produced such horrors as chemical warfare by World War I) will take them in the future.

I enjoyed the film. At the same time, I would be very hesitant to recommend it to any one that was not already interested in films of the early 1930s, for I think most contemporary viewers would have great difficulty adjusting to the tremendous difference in style. The VHS (the film is not yet available on DVD) has some problem with visual elements and a more significant problem with audio elements, but these are not consistent issues. Recommended--but with the warning that if you don't already like pre-code early "talkies" you will likely be disappointed.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cavalcade a historical timepiece 4 Mar. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The most important thing to keep in mind with this film is the fact that it was made in 1933. It is an excellent film for capturing the mood of the English people at this time. It seems to be almost a tribute to English perseverance and a wake up call for a society that is spiraling into decadence and immorality. (ie Wake up - life is brief and may be over in an instant) I loved the symbolism in this movie, the horses portraying time marching on, the image of Jesus hanging on the cross as the troops march off to "sacrifice" themselves. The cross on the top of the church that symbolized faith and eternity. You really need to look under the surface to appreciate this film. As a timepiece, and a wakeup call that went unheralded, I give it four stars.
24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably uninspiring for a Best Picture winner 2 Mar. 2007
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
I know that in the early days of talking pictures that scripts and dialogue were often uninspired as everybody in the motion picture industry had to get used to the idea of telling stories through the spoken word rather than with only gestures and facial expressions, but by the time Cavalcade came out this period was pretty much over. The competition in the year this film won Best Picture, such as "I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang" and "Lady for a Day", pretty much prove this point. Thus the fact that you never really get to know these characters or their feelings can't be totally attributed to adjustments to a new art form.

As someone else already mentioned, the film will probably remind you of the series "Upstairs, Downstairs", just without the heart or insight of that show. I know it's impossible to weave a tale in a two hour movie with the same level of sophistication that you can in a long-running TV series, but I really expected to care more about the events and characters portrayed than I did at the end of the film. One definition of the word "cavalcade" is "procession", and that pretty much sums up the film's problems. You just feel that both yourself and the characters are watching events proceed through the decades after the turn of the century, and you never feel any real involvement of the either yourself or the characters in those events.

This movie seems to excel when it is using the pure visual medium of film to convey a feeling. For example, there is a scene where Mrs. Marryot is in the act of lighting a cigarette when she spots a nurse doing the same for a wounded soldier in her care. Mrs. Marryot's attention is drawn to the wounded soldier to the point that she forgets what she is doing and the match goes out in her hands. The sight of the soldier brings out the fears she has for her own son to whom she has just said goodbye as he goes off to fight in World War I. Maybe some of the problems of the film just can't be helped given the time in which it was made. The film ends in the depths of the depression, and tries to show a hopeful note. The ending seems awkward, but that may be because we know today what nobody could have known in 1933 - that things were about to get much worse. The depression would drag on for years, and the aftermath of World War I was in the process of setting the stage for the second World War.

This is a good movie, but not a great one. The most interesting thing about it is that it acts as a time capsule and allows you to see past events through the eyes of people who lived in the 1930's and helps clear up some of the questions as to why everyone was so hesitant to get involved in stopping Germany's military build-up prior to World War II until it was too late. Since this is a Best Picture winner, it is a shame that the only Region 1 DVD containing this movie has gone out of print. However, it is not such essential viewing that I would pay the outrageous price that people are demanding for used copies. Since the original DVD copy of this movie was produced in 2002, more than likely it has only gone out of print temporarily while it is being remastered using more modern DVD technology, and will be released once again on DVD at some point in the future.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A world long lost, twice removed from our own... 3 Jan. 2003
By DJ Joe Sixpack - Published on Amazon.com
Noel Coward's homage to the bygone era of Edwardian England. A long and somewhat lumpy script tracks one upper-upper class family's trials through 1899-1933, as their paths intersect the Boer War, WWI, and the Titanic... Oddly enough, considering Coward's bon vivant temprament, the movie seems to condemn the libertine sensibilities of the Jazz Era (great glimpses of the action, though, including a gay couple exchanging gifts in a nightclub...) and exalts the more traditional English reserve. An interesting film, although in retrospect WWII loomed large in the background...
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