One is a (seemingly) wholesome and widely beloved classic Warner Brothers’ movie musical, featuring visually dazzling song and dance numbers choreographed by the now-legendary Busby Berkeley. The other is a crass and tacky soft core MGM porn show whose title became a punch-line even before its release.
On closer inspection however, 42nd Street (1933) and Showgirls (1995) have a lot more in common than one may suspect. To paraphrase Truman Capote, it’s like the two movies grew up together in the same house and one day 42nd Street got up and strutted out the front door, while Showgirls sneaked out the back.
Although only one takes place in Vegas, both films were a gamble.
“No love has ever enthralled me as did the making of this picture. No achievement will ever excite me so much. No reward will ever be so great as having been a part of ‘The Big Parade’. It was the high point of my career. All that followed is balderdash.” – John Gilbert
The Academy Awards were not around in 1925 however if they had been, MGM’s WW1 epic The Big Parade would easily have won Best Picture. In fact, if the film were released today it would arguably be the best movie of 2019. Or of any year.
Directed by the legendary King Vidor, The Big Parade tells the story of three American buddies – one wealthy and two working class – who are sent to France to fight in “the Great War”. The film’s protagonist is Jim Apperson (played by the dashing John Gilbert), the spoiled son of a wealthy businessman. Swept up by the big brass band and romantic patriotism during a recruitment parade, Jim eagerly jumps forth from the sea of waving flags to join his buddies to enlist. He is not the only one dazzled by the day’s war propaganda, with its promise of heroic adventure: “You’ll look gorgeous in an officer’s uniform!” his fiancée gushes. “I’ll love you more than ever.” Jim, like many young men, sees the war as his chance to travel and experience adventure; sadly his dreams of romantic heroism will mutate into real life nightmares of unspeakable horror and loss. Continue reading “Silent Film Review: The Big Parade (1925)”→