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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cavalcade a historical timepiece
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)...
Published on March 4, 2002

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably uninspiring for a Best Picture winner
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...
Published on March 2, 2007 by calvinnme


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cavalcade a historical timepiece, March 4, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorable But Stylistically Dated, March 26, 2003
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twentieth Century Blues, January 24, 2007
By 
Kevin Killian (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably uninspiring for a Best Picture winner, March 2, 2007
This review is from: Cavalcade (DVD)
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A world long lost, twice removed from our own..., January 2, 2003
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Not Great, June 24, 2001
By 
Alex Udvary (chicago, il United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Cavalcade" directed by Frank Lloyd is probably best known (to those who have actually heard of it) as one of the most forgettable Oscar winners ever! It's a sad fact but true. Diana Wynyard stars as Jane Marryot. The Marryot's are an upper class English family, and are struggling with the same problems people of every class are struggling with. Like the Bridges whom happen to be their servents, they are played by Herbert Mumdin (Alfred Bridges) and Una O' Conners (Ellen Bridges). Originally a play by Noel Coward, the screenplay by Reginald Berkeley doesn't provide us with an interesting portrait inside both families. For example, we don't even know how long each couple has been together. We don't know how old they are, we don't know how old their childern are. We don't know how the Marryot family came into wealth. It's simple things like this we would like to know. But, I must admit at times we do feel for these people. Certain sad events take place, and we found ourselves actually caring and getting caught into the movie. But, not enough of these moments happen where I would dare give this film a 4 or 5 star rating. Even though I didn't care for the screenplay very much, there are highpoints to the film. I liked the acting by Diana Wynyard (She was nominated for an award) and her husband Clive Brook (Robert Marryot). The directing by Lloyd was good also. And, one of my favorite moments in the film Ursula Jean (Fanny Bridges) singing "20th Century Blues". One of my favorite Coward songs. The reviwer below me mentioned Coward's "In Which We Serve" that movie was a better film. We cared for the characters in that film more than we do in this film. But, even though many many people would not go for a movie like this today, it's still not a waste of time to watch it. At least give it a try. This movie was nominated for 4 Oscars, it won three; "Best Picture", "Best Director", and "Art Direction". It's not great but does prove to be entertaining.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A LACKLUSTER UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS FILM..., May 19, 2006
This review is from: Cavalcade (DVD)
It is difficult to believe that this film won the 1933 Academy Award for Best Picture of the Year. It is a somewhat dull, tedious affair, based upon a Noel Coward play of some popularity. The screenplay by Reginald Berkeley evidently lost something in the adaptation, as it has little to commend it.

The movie chronicles a span of over three decades through the lives of two British families, one upstairs, the other, downstairs. The upstairs family, the Marryots, and their maid and butler, the dowstairs Bridges family, undergo tremendous changes as world events spin out of control, impacting on them in unimaginable ways.

The movie begins with the ringing in of the twentieth century. Both families, employer and employee, welcome in the New Year together and toast each other, little knowing the changes that the twentieth century will bring each one of them. As time goes on, the relationship between the two families begins to change, as class distinctions begin to erode. A montage of historical world events, the Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, World War I, and the jazz age continue to shape and mold them in a pastiche of human drama.

While it sounds as if it could be interesting, it is not particularly so. One never really gets to know any of the characters nor care about them. While it is a highly stylistic film, it is one that has not aged very well as a storytelling vehicle. It is just not that interesting a film, though it is highly atmospheric and would, therefore, be of some interest to nostalgia buffs and those who love vintage films.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cavalcade of Scars, June 27, 2009
This review is from: Cavalcade [VHS] (VHS Tape)
It's probably telling that CAVALCADE is one of two Academy Award "Best Picture" winners yet to be released on DVD (in Region 1). If ever a film screamed "DATED!" this would be it. If, like me, you don't automatically assume datedness to be a bad thing, however, you'll welcome the chance to view this rare Noel Coward drama in whatever format is available. We are lucky to have it.

One could make the case that all but the most abstract or fantastical narratives are somehow about human beings caught up in the grand sweep of history. But there is something especially interesting about works where that kind of portrayal is clearly the author's primary intent.

CAVALCADE chronicles the lives of two London families--one upper class, one lower-- from New Year's Eve 1899 to New Year's Eve 1929. It is a classic "upstairs/downstairs" scenario, with a slight twist that suggests significant social changes at the turn of the last century. The servant family, the Bridges, take advantage of a business opportunity, and with some reluctance, opt to leave their masters' employ and strike out on their own. (The results are not all that felicitous, which might be interpreted in a variety of ways, I imagine.) The upper class Marryots experience social advancement on their own elevated level as well (when Mr. Marryot is knighted), but they experience heartache as well (the tragic loss of two sons).

Joy and sorrow. Gain and loss. You could say it's the same old story. But each story, ultimately, is unique--if only because each story is lived out by unique individuals. Yes, it's harder to get to know well characters from other times and places, but it IS possible. In fact, it's often easier to understand characters as products of their time and culture when you're viewing them from a remove.

At least one previous reviewer has commented on the subtle anti-war sentiments in the film. The play on which it was based was perceived as being proudly nationalistic, but it is doubtful that an ironist like Coward would have intended anything quite so simple. The anti-war sentiments are uttered mainly by the cast's female characters, which even in the 1930s meant that they could be readily dismissed (unfortunately). A contemporary viewer might tend to actually hear what these wives and mothers of soldiers are saying quite clearly.

War and rumors of war are the film's touchstones. The film begins with the men of both the upper class and the lower class families proudly marching off to fight the Boers in South Africa. The characters do not know it, but this war marks the end of an era. War as adventure, as an hororable and noble pursuit, was a given. AND they were short. Sixteen years later, the horrifying era of modern warfare had begun with the "War to End All Wars." As the film ends in 1929, storm clouds are starting to brew once again. Yes, our principle characters will continue to try to face whatever comes with a sense of honor and dignity--stiff upper lip and all that--but they've seen the dramatic changes the earliest years of the 20th century have brought. The future can't help but be at least somewhat daunting.
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22 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So so movie...HORRIBLE DVD!, October 1, 2008
By 
Bluzfan1 (Illinois in the U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Cavalcade (DVD)
Cavalcade is not that great a movie, and the pickings must have been pretty slim the year it won the oscar for Best Picture. But whether you like the film or not? This Chinese import version is HORRIBLE! The picture looks as though someone turned out the lights during filming, and the scenes are so dark, it's nearly impossible to see what's going on at all? The sound quality is even worse than the picture, with at least a two to three second delay between what you see on the screen and what you hear? Meaning that you see the actors saying their lines, but have to wait a few seconds to hear what they actually said. I'm not sure when, or even if the movie will finally be released to DVD by a legitimate, region 1 studio? But do yourself a favor and wait it out. Because having this version is far worse than not having it at all, no matter how badly you'd like to add it to your collection? (2 used & new from 78 bucks? I'll let you have mine for half the price! lol)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intimate portrait!, July 27, 2005
This review is from: Cavalcade (DVD)
This familiar album extends itself from 1899 to 1932,in this sense the movie focuses around the painful years of the WW1 and the Great Depression. The sorrows and triumphs of the Marryot family are treatedadmirably in this admirable adptation of Noel Coward's play.
The film looks dated but maintains its involving expressive force.
This can be Frank Lloyd's masterpiece.
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