Cavalcade Blu-ray Review
It’s the night of Y1K…sorry, I couldn’t resist…it’s the night of New Years Eve, 1899. In their comfortable London home, Robert and Jane Marryot (Brook and Wynyard) celebrate the coming century with their young children and their two main house servants, Alfred and Ellen Bridges (Herbert Mundin and Una O’Connor). Soon Robert and Alfred will be off to South Africa to fight in the Boer War. Thus begins a tour of history in the Academy Award winning Best Picture of 1933 – CAVALCADE.
Based on the stage play by Noel Coward, CAVALCADE is a look back at some of the most historical moments in British history and how those events affected the population. The death of Queen Victoria? Check. The sinking of the Titanic? Yep. Even a brief look at World War I takes place during the films almost two hour length. In between we learn about the main characters as well as their children, who seemingly manage to find themselves smack dab in the middle of history every time they turn around. Slightly distracting is a superimposed image of the same horseman riding across the screen. Oddly, they look like Klansmen but I’m sure the intention is to show the marching of time. Between historical events the families expand, open and close businesses and eventually form a bond that comes across as genuine. It’s not easy keeping the same friends for over three decades (I’m very lucky that I actually have a couple that I’ve known since 1976) but with that friendship comes a familiarity and that aspect of the Marryot and Bridges relationship comes through. Also interesting to see that, though technically on a lower class scale as their employers, the Bridges are portrayed as smart and caring people.
The performances are top of the line here. Having to carry a thirty-four year span (the film concludes on December 31, 1933), the four leads bring an easiness to their work. And kudos to the makeup person, sadly uncredited, for achieving an outstanding look as the characters aged. As the worrying matriarch, Wynyard puts the film on her shoulders and marches straight ahead. The film is well cast but she really deserves an extra shout out. Trivia fans will be pleased to see later stars Bonita Granville and Betty Grable.
One thing I really noticed is the way the dialogue is delivered. As it was based on a Noel Coward play it’s obvious that the screenwriter kept in a lot of stage directions that called for the actors to emote loudly for effect. That effect takes a little away from the enjoyment of the film since the viewer is right in front of the television and not in the last row of the balcony.
Nominated for four Academy Awards, CAVALCADE won three for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Art Direction (well deserved). The fourth nomination went to Wynyard for Best Actress, who lost to Katharine Hepburn, who collected her first of a record four Best Actress Oscars for her work in MORNING GLORY.
CAVALCADE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: Presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the film has been well transferred. It amazes me how today’s technology can make an 80 year old film look brand new. The image is sharp and the black and white photography is not muddled.
Audio: The film is presented in DTS Master Audio Mono. The film features some pretty impressive set pieces (men at war, the Titanic) with a lot of different sound sources. Here each one is distinct and clear.
Fox Movietone News: “Cavalcade” Wins First Honors (1:00): a brief clip of stars Brook and Wynyard, director Lloyd and producer Winfield Sheehan commenting on the film’s Best Picture Oscar.
Audio Commentary by Film Historian Richard Schickel: One of my favorite film writers provides nice background antidotes.