The Crimson Playgoer
History Making Film of a Family's Sacrifice for England Now Playing at Majestic
England's changing fortunes, a slice of history, are shown in terms of one family's sacrifice and loss in "Cavalcade," playing now at the Majestic. Taken from the play by Noel Coward, "Cavalcade" has been fashioned into what is not only the master work of the Fox Film Corporation, but a picture that must be regarded as the greatest achievement of the talking pictures to date.
It is not an epic in the sense that the garish extravagances of DeMille were called epics. Its effects are not won by means of pyromaniac mobs that made D. W. Griffith a god in Hollywood. Rather "Cavalcade" is a drama of family patriotism; and because the finer qualities of an Englishman are the finer qualities of an American it commands the emotions and sympathy of the American audience.
The atmosphere of absolute reality that is everywhere maintained adds tremendously to the emotional force of the production. This atmosphere is the result of masterful direction by Frank Lloyd. He handles Queen Victoria's funeral, the embarkation of troops for the Boer war and later the Great War, the scene between the two lovers on the "unsinkable ship," and the personal tragedies with simplicity and astonishing dramatic skill. Much of this was only made possible by the performances of Clive Brook as Sir Robert Marryot and Diana Wynward as Lady Marryot. None of the leading players can escape the highest praise.
"The Colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady are sisters under the skin," Kipling wrote. The parallelism between upstairs where Robert Marryot is taking leave of his wife and below stairs where Alf Bridges, the butler, is kissing his baby goodby, is maintained throughout "Cavalcade."
While for various reasons the talking pictures have never equalled either the dramatic or financial successes of their silent predecessors. "Cavalcade" has moments that send one back to "What Price Glory" or "The Covered Wagon" for sequences equally powerful. There is the scene in the London theatre during the Boer War. Some of those in the audience have sons or husbands "dying by inches" in Mafeking while a relief force is on its way in an attempt to raise the seige. The ballet and chorus are reaching their height when the manager stumbles out onto the stage and stops the performance to make the announcement that "Mafeking has been relieved." Pandemonium breaks loose. The effect is one of the greatest climaxes in motion picture history.
The cavalcade of kings and queens goes onward past the Great War and up to the present time. At last with striving it takes an upward course once more. A gray haired couple whose sons are gone drink a toast to "dignity, greatness, and peace." Outside the New Year throngs sing "Auld Lang Syne" and there is a light on the cross above St. Paul's.