Oscar: Cavalcade (1933)–Noel Coward’s Oscar-Winning Melodrama

cavalcade_3“Cavalcade,” the Best Picture Oscar winner of 1932-3, was Fox’s most prestigious and most important production to date.

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.


Hollywood producers rushed to make a movie out of Coward’s historical pageant, which ran for 405 performances on the London stage.

The family melodrama–borderline a soap opera–impressed the middlebrow critics, but the public that year favored Fox’s Small-Town Americana , “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 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’s success was the acting of Clive Brook, as her husband, Robert.

The 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.

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.