Rating: 1½ stars (out of 4)
Cavalcade (1933): Dir. Frank Lloyd. Written by: Reginald Berkeley, with continuity by Sonya Levien. Based upon the play of the same name by Noël Coward. Starring: Diana Wynard, Clive Brook, Una O’Connor, Herbert Mundin, and Ursula Jeans. Unrated. Running time: 110 minutes.
Do you like to watch people crying? How about wailing? How about wailing like banshees? A lot? Then have I got the film for you! Cavalacade, surprisingly based on a Noel Coward play, tells a sort of rich life/poor life story about the rich Marryot and the servile Bridges families. It’s like watching Downton Abbey on permanent fast-forward, with all the character development we might expect from that.
The film traces the period from 1899 to 1933, paying special attention to the Boer War, the sinking of the Titanic, and World War I. Time changes much for the families, but the film spans so much time without much transition between scenes, and the characters fail to make definite impressions before we’re thrust into the future.
And of course, the crying never stops. The characters bawl at the drop of a hat, and the breakdowns are so mawkish you want to tell the characters to grow up. The performances from the actors come off stagy and overacted, giving us little reason to care about any of the people involved.
For all its pretension, the film offers little insight into British history—or anything else, for that matter. Some scenes stand out—one between a just-married couple presents an uncharacteristically touching moment of fatalism— but such scenes are a rarity. For a film that preaches dignity through adversity at its conclusion, it sure does like to turn on the waterworks.
Next film: It Happened One Night, 1934