Oscar: Best Picture–Cavalcade (1933)

cavalcade_3“Cavalcade,” the Best Oscar winner of 1932-3, was Fox’s most prestigious and most important production to date.  Artistically, it’s considered to be one of the weakest Oscar-winners.

Based on Noel Coward’s stage spectacular, adapted to the screen by Reginald Berkely, it is a tale of an upper-class British family that spans 30 years, beginning in New Year’s Eve of 1899, and continuing through the Boer War, the sinking of the Titanic, World War One, and the Depression.

Noel Coward’s historical pageant ran for 405 performances on the London stage. The soap opera impressed critics, but not the public, which favored Fox’s Small-Town Americana that year, “State Fair.” Nominated for Best Picture, but not for acting, “State Fair” starred Will Rogers as a farmer entering his pig in the Kansas State Fair, with Janet Gaynor as a daughter who finds romance with Lew Ayres.

Diana Wynyard, a popular actress at the time, gave a performance full of sympathy and feeling as Jane Marryot, the strong mother who loses both of her sons in tragic circumstances. Equally important to the film was Clive Brook, as her husband, Robert.

cavalcade_5The saga begins on the New Year’s Eve in 1899, and Robert leaving the next day for South Africa as an officer. Jane hates war and she dislikes seeing her twp little boys playing with toy cannon and soldiers; the music of martial bands gets on her nerves. Months later, Jane is jubilant at her husband’s return. The War is over. Years roll by. Edward Marryot, one of their sons, goes on a honeymoon as passenger aboard the Titanic, and finds his death when the ship sinks. Without ever a nasty word between them, the couple console themselves that they still have one son, Joe. Then, in 1914, WWI erupts and Joe goes forth to fight in the front and gets killed. But life must go on and in the last scene, Jane and Robert drink to each other’s health, welcoming the new year of 1930.

With Coward’s recommendation, Fox newsreel cameramen were sent to London to record the stage production as a guide for the film .

 

 

cavalcade1.jpgThe soundtrack includes “Girls of the C.I.V.,” “Mirabelle,” “Lover of My Dreams,” and “Twentieth Century Blues” by Noël Coward, “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” by Harry von Tilzer, “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside” by John Glover Kind, “Take Me Back to Yorkshire” by Harry Castlingand Fred Godfrey, “Nearer My God, To Thee” by Lowell Mason, “Your King and Country Want You” by Paul Rubens, “It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary” by Jack Judge and Harry Williams, “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile” by Felix Powell and George Asaf, “Keep The Home Fires Burning” by Ivor Novello and Lena Guilbert Ford, “Oh, You Beautiful Doll” by Nat Ayer and Seymour Brown, “Hinky Dinky Parlay Voo (Mad’moiselle from Armentieres)” by Irwin Dash, Al Dubin, and Joe Mittenthal, and “Over There” by George M. Cohan.

As was the practice with prestige productions, the film premiered in New York on January 5, 1933, and then went into wide theatrical release April 15.

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OSCAR CONTEXT:

Oscar Nominations: 4

Picture, produced by Winfield Sheehan
Director: Frank Lloyd
Actress: Diana Wynyard
Interior Decoration: William S. Darling

Oscar Awards: 3

In 1933, “Cavalcade” competed with nine other films for the Best Picture Oscar: “A Farewell to Arms,” Forty-Second Street,” “I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” Capra’s “Lady for a Day,” “Little Women,” “The Private Life of Henry VIII,” She Done Him Wrong,” “Smiling Through,” and “State Fair.”

“The Private Life of Henry VIII” was the first British film to be nominated for Best Picture and to score a huge success at the box-office, largely due to Charles Laughton’s Oscar-winning performance. “She Done Him Wrong” is the only Mae West picture to be nominated for the top award. She had never been nominated for an Oscar.

Cast

Diana Wynyard as Jane Marryot

Clive Brook as Robert Marryot

Una O’Connor as Ellen Bridges

Herbert Mundin as Alfred Bridges

Irene Browne as Margaret Harris

Margaret Lindsay as Edith Harris

John Warburton as Edward Marryot

Bonita Granville as Young Fanny

Douglas Walton as Soldier