These notes accompany King Vidor’s</i>The Big Parade, which screens on February 24, 25, and 26 in Theater 3.</p>
In his autobiography A Tree Is a Tree, King Vidor recounts the origins of The Big Parade. Having made some good but ephemeral films for the fledgling M-G-M, Vidor told Irving Thalberg, “If I were to work on something that…had a chance at long runs…, I would put much more effort, and love, into its creation.”
If there is anything wrong with The Big Parade, it is that Vidor put too much into it. The film is at once a grand epic, an intimate romance, a comedy of camaraderie, and a savage polemic. Somehow, Vidor managed to hold all this together, and seemingly overnight became the leading “serious” director in America, assuming at age thirty-one the mantle which had fallen from D. W. Griffith’s shoulders when the Master was forced to sign a contract with Paramount earlier in 1925. Eighty-five years later, The Big Parade still dwarfs virtually every film made about World War I, and it is arguably Vidor’s finest achievement.