'Cavalcade': THR's 1933 Review
On Jan. 5, 1933, the Diana Wynyard-starring drama Cavalcade made its world premiere in New York and was greeted with acclaim. The film went on to win three Oscars at the 6th Academy Awards ceremony, including best picture. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below:
Fox Film's Cavalcade is a fine, splendid document of the folly and resultant decline of civilization through the tragedies of war. It is Noel Coward's contribution to the cause of peace and, as such, it is effective historic pageantry.
It is made human and compelling by virtue of the exquisite and well nigh perfect performance of Diana Wynyard in the role of the aristocratic, genteel and universally human Jane Marryot. It is her characterization of the mother who, in the early years of her marriage, goes through the hell of the Boer War and, later in life, must suffer her one remaining child to be sacrificed to the great God War for the gory glory of nations that gives the picture its appeal and its strength. It is this that makes it a story, not only of England, but of the needless, futile suffering that everyone the world over has gone through.
In their efforts to give this production the universal flavor that was demanded of it to make it a success with American audiences, much of the pageantry that was England has been lost, and it is at times a little difficult to fathom all that Coward had in mind when he wrote this epic story of the decline of a civilization that is separated from us by more than just three thousand miles of water.
However, in its place is revealed an interesting procession of events that forms an accurate historic record from the year 1899 to this day of grace. We are given the story of the Marryots and their household, consisting of the Bridges and their daughters, and their little world is representative of the world as a whole. The Marryots have two sons, the elder of whom marries his childhood friend, Edith Harris, and on their honeymoon they are lost in the Titanic disaster.
The younger Marryot boy, on the eve of his departure for France, meets again the daughter of the Bridges, which family has progressed from being in service to being bourgeois. They fall in love, but marriage is not for them because Joe Marryot is claimed by the war and never returns.
The story closes on New Year's Eve, 1932, in the home of the Marryots, who are quietly drinking a toast to the new year, together and quite alone just the same as they had always done, but with the vast difference of 33 years and two tragic wars behind them that have wrecked their little world and completely upset the world outside. Their toast is to the glory and strength of their country in peace.
The picture has been admirably directed by Frank Lloyd, who has given it a quiet sense of power that, while it is not soul-stirring, is at all times something to watch and listen to.
Enough cannot be said in praise of Diana Wynyard. The lady is superb in the difficult part of Jane Marryot and it is she who carries the picture's key to success. Ursula Jeans, Clive Brook, Frank Lawton, Irene Browne, and the children, Dick Henderson Jr., Sheila MacGill and, more especially, Douglas Scott, must be individually mentioned for their full share of credit in contributing performances that make the picture a vital living thing.
The photography is excellent and the detail in the depiction by the makeup men of age is something to be recommended to other studios. Whether or not it was the fault of the recording or the projection, it must be said here that too great a portion of the film was not only inaudible, but unintelligible, and a great many important speeches were lost to the first night audience.
It is, all in all, a picture that can be highly recommended and commended for its honesty of purpose and its magnificent characterizations, and one that deserves the very best in exploitation to put it over. Build up Diana Wynyard and you will build for future successes too. — Staff review, originally published Jan. 6, 1933.