The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925). World War I picture, made when that war was still very familiar to audiences, was a huge hit. John Gilbert (“The Great Lover”) effectively played all facets of his characters, first as a rich and careless young man, then as one of the boys in the Army, and finally as one of many confronted with the ugliness of war. French actress Renée Adorée, who had been in films for several years and in show business since she was five years old, won audiences over as the love interest, especially in a famous scene where Gilbert teaches her how to chew gum. (Her movie career blossomed with The Big Parade ... sadly, she died of TB only eight years later.) Much of the film plays almost like a rom-com, and between the drawn-out courtship and the comic relief provided by Tom O’Brien and Karl Dane, my patience was wearing thin. But then the soldiers head for the front, marked by the ominous caption, “IT HAD BEGUN.” The battle scene that follows is intense, and while Vidor doesn’t film it as straightforward realism, the scene draws much of its power from showing the darker side of war. It’s what raises the film above the norm. #898 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.
Guys and Dolls (Joseph L.Mankiewicz, 1955). 5/10.