Next up for the Best Picture History Project is Cavalcade (1933) is a film adaptation of Noel Coward’s play of the same name. Set in London, the movie follows the upper class Marryot family and their servants, the Bridges through the first 33 years of the 20th century. This was an eventful time for Londoners of all sorts, with the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Queen Victoria, and the Great War. The world moves fast, and these two families and their children are swept up in the whirlwind of a changing society.
Premier of Cavalcade
Holding a premier with Will Rogers as the host was bound to get a lot of attention in 1933. Fox Films achieved commercial success with Cavalcade, with profits near £2.5 million pounds. Will Rogers would also end up being the host of the 6th Academy Awards in November of the next year. He would present the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director to Frank Lloyd, a prolific director. Lloyd would go on to direct over 100 films in his career.
The Indianapolis Times advertised the March 4th, 1933 opening of Cavalcade with a list of trivia about the movie and it’s production. I’ve transcribed it, as the article clipping is a little hard to read. This clipping is an example of an ad placed by a studio to make it look like a real article. Either that, or the entertainment journalist just copied the “Cavalcade” press-release word for word.
“Cavalcade” to Open Thursday Night
“Cavalcade will open Thursday Night at English’s for a limited engagement. Here are a few interesting facts:
That Noel Coward, author of the Fox Film “Cavalcade,” is but 32 years of age.
That there are 130 speaking parts in the Fox Films production of Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade.”
That 200 highly specialized technical experts formed Director Frank Lloyd’s production staff in preparing for and filming Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade” for Fox Films.
That 25,000 modern costumes were worn by principals and thousands of extras in Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade” as produced by Fox Films.
That two ocean liners were but a pair of items on the list of thousands of properties assembled by Fox Films for the production of Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade.”
That more than 2,500 actors and actresses appear in a single scene of Fox Films production of “Cavalcade.”
That Frank Lloyd, director of Fox Films super-production of Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade” is twice winner of the Academy Award for the best motion picture of the year.
That there are 40 principal players, 150 speaking parts and more than 15,000 minor characters in Fox Films production of Noel Coward’s “Cavalcade.”
That a railway station and trains including engines were built and assembled at Movietone City for an important sequence in Fox Film’s production of “Cavalcade.”
That song numbers and instrumental music in the film vary from modern jazz to old ragtime: from church hymns to funeral dirges and from national anthems to old world ballads.
That no fewer than 50 distinct musical numbers form the background of “Cavalcade.”
Cavalcade was a little outdated, given that it was filmed ninety years ago. I find old movies to be a glimpse into history – not only the clothing, styles, the way society sees beauty – but what issues are important to the people of the time. During the Great Depression, when everything was dreary, a dime could buy an escape. For Americans, this look into what it was like in London for the last few large historical events combined Hollywood’s star power with a successful box office trope: nostalgia. It’s not my favorite Oscar winner, but I did enjoy the film.