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Oscars Challenge #59: Cavalcade (1933) Movie Review


There have been a lot of Christmas movies that have been released throughout every generation or decade. But there is only a handful that you can call a "New Year" movie.


I honestly don't know what to make up of Cavalcade except that it is full of historical events and unluckiness. The characters were so unlucky that you can't help but sympathize with them.


The film begins on the last day of 1899. The Marryot family, led by husband and wife Robert and Jane, celebrates their traditional New Year with a midnight toast. They are an upper-class family living in London along with their servants. After their butler, Alfred and Robert went home unharmed after participating in the Second Boer War. The latter was knighted for his service.


Alfred saved up some money to buy his pub with his wife, Ellen, and daughter, Fanny. As they celebrate Alfred's return, they are greeted by the news of the death of Queen Victoria.


The film's story is viewed three decades after the Second Boer War. The Marryot family and their servants lived through Queen Victoria's death, the RMS Titanic's sinking, and World War I. Not all survived those significant incidents, and sometimes their children were involved.


Cavalcade is directed by Frank Lloyd, who won Best Director for the second time after 1929's The Divine Lady.


Surprisingly, this film reportedly was one of Adolf Hitler's favorite films. I am unsure why because I find this film a tad below the middle. I like how different decades were shown by using title cards with a marching cavalcade in the background, but the story, to me, is slightly off. I just can't help but feel bad about the family losing their children in those significant historical events.


I got to say the RMS Titanic sign revelation scene with Jane and Robert's son Edward, and his wife, Edith, was epic. I honestly didn't expect it.


Despite its boring storyline, this movie is well-acted. The actors who played Jane and Robert, Diana Wynward and Clive Brook, are outstanding. But their characters had terrible decisions regarding their children, especially when they participated in the war. It's ironic, considering the family views New Year as a moving-forward tradition, but they can't let go of their bad decisions.


I like the concept of Cavalcade. It's unique and probably the first of its time. It's no wonder the film was well-liked back then and even by movie history enthusiasts.


What this movie lacks is that it didn't show much genuine emotion from the characters. Even when they encountered those events tragically, the film failed to show their grievances and regret, which could have been highlighted or expounded more in the story. Instead, they moved the plot towards a more theatrical approach of moving along through the years like a cavalry marching into battle.


I still view Cavalcade as an essential watch, especially if you want a unique storyline. I don't think I have ever seen a movie that incorporates many significant historical events affecting the main characters like this. Even if the story is quite a snoozer, this is still something that you should not skip.


A good 3 out of 5 stars.

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