~The Big Parade~
1925
~Plot Synopsis~
In the spring of 1917, America enjoys peaceful prosperity, while war rages in Europe. In New York,
laborer Slim Jensen toils on a skyscraper, while in the Bowery, Michael “Bull” O’Hara tends bar. On
the other side of town, wealthy idler James Apperson scoffs at the idea of working in his father’s
factory. All three men’s lives are interrupted by the news of America’s declaration of war against
Germany. Disinterested in the war news, Jim is bewildered by the patriotic fervor that stirs the crowds
and inspires an enthusiastic parade. When a group of Jim’s buddies excitedly tell him that they are
enlisting, Jim impulsively joins them. That evening, Jim avoids telling his family he has enlisted, so as
not to worry his anxious mother. Jim’s father berates him for his indolence and points out that Jim’s
brother Harry has already placed the family factory in war production. Jim’s proud fiancée, Justyn
Reed, then accidentally reveals Jim’s enlistment, which dismays Mrs. Apperson, but cheers Mr.
Apperson. Several days later in boot camp, Jim meets Slim and Bull. After a hasty training period, Bull
is made sergeant and the company is shipped to France where, after several days march into the
countryside, set up camp in the farming village of Champillon and are welcomed by the villagers. A few
days later, Jim receives a cake from Justyn that he shares with Bull and Slim. To break up the
monotony of camp life, Jim decides to rig a shower for the men near the river and searches for a barrel
in the village. There, he is spotted by farm girl Melisande, who lives alone with her mother. Curious
about Jim’s actions, Melisande follows him back to the river and watches Bull and Slim try out the
primitive shower. Jim then introduces himself to Melisande, although he speaks no French and she
does not understand English. Jim is annoyed when Bull and Slim also show interest in Melisande, but
she rejects them in favor of Jim. That evening, Jim waits for Melisande in front of her home and when
she appears, shyly offers her a stick of gum and shows her how to chew it. Using a French dictionary,
Jim and Melisande manage to communicate their mutual attraction to each other and over the next
several weeks, Jim sees Melisande as often as possible, despite constant teasing from Bull and Slim. At
mail call, some days later, Bull is angry when someone playfully takes his letter, causing Bull to
mistakenly attack an officer he believes responsible. The officer angrily then angrily demotes Bull.
Upon retrieving the letter, Bull is taken aback to learn that he is going to be a father. Meanwhile, Jim is
overcome by guilt when he receives a letter and photo from Justyn, who frets at not hearing from him.
Melisande finds Jim and the two quarrel when she realizes that Jim is engaged. Despite Jim’s
insistence that he genuinely cares for her, Melisande is hurt and departs in tears. Moments later, the
company receives orders to move to the front immediately and Jim hurries to gather his equipment.
The villagers rush to bid the soldiers farewell as trucks and equipment begin speeding through
Champillion. After hastily packing, Jim searches frantically for Melisande, but is forced to join his unit.
Attracted by the bustle of the army’s sudden departure, Melisande anxiously joins the crowd of
soldiers marching through the village, desperately hoping to find Jim. Jim finally spots Melisande and,
rushing to her, vows that he will return. An officer orders Jim to return to his truck and as the
transport moves off, Melisande frantically hangs on to the truck’s side in a vain effort to stop its
departure. When she is forced to let go, Jim throws Melisande a necklace and a shoe, which she clings
to as the caravan of soldiers speeds away. Jim, Bull, Slim and the company then proceed toward
enemy lines under the protection of fighter planes. When the company must continue on foot, the
men are strafed by a German planes and Jim sees his first wounded and dead. Jim and his company
are then ordered to spread out to march through a forest filled with German snipers. Continuing on,
the men are bombed by shells and gas and, putting on their masks, seek shelter in the trenches. After
surviving an afternoon-long attack, night falls and Jim, Slim and Bull take turns napping and eating
canned ham. While the Germans lob shells over the trenches every few minutes, Jim tries some of
Slim’s chewing tobacco for the first time. Later, an officer creeps into their trench to order one of them
to destroy the German cannon. Knowing that he is the best spitter, Slim suggests a spitting contest to
see who will take on the dangerous mission. After winning the contest, Slim slowly crawls through the
dirt, hiding behind dead bodies until he reaches the German cannon nest, which he destroys with a
hand grenade. As he crawls back, however, flares illuminate Slim, and German machine gunners shoot
at him as Jim and Bull listen tensely from their trench. When Slim does not return, Jim and Bull begin
calling for him anxiously, until they are reprimanded by an officer. A little later, Jim and Bull hear Slim
feebly calling for help and, frantic, Jim disobeys orders and leaves the fox hole to rescue Slim. Bull
joins Jim and upon finding Slim dead, both men grieve, then, in a fury, destroy the German machine
gun nest. While moving in on a second nest, Bull is killed and Jim wounded in the leg. Jim attacks a
German with his bayonet and the two tumble into a shell hole together. His rage abruptly spent, Jim
cannot kill the young soldier and instead offers him a cigarette, but the soldier dies minutes later. A
few days later, Jim awakens in a church turned into a makeshift infirmary. A fellow patient tells Jim
that he was wounded in nearby Champillon which was subsequently overrun by the Germans.
Alarmed, Jim escapes from the hospital on crutches to go in search of Melisande, unaware that the
village has been evacuated. Jim collapses upon arriving at the shattered village, where he is later
found by a medical unit. Upon the declaration of peace, Jim returns home, an amputee as a result of
his wounds. Although Justyn and Harry have become involved in Jim’s absence, she is determined to
maintain her engagement to Jim. Despite his family’s sincere relief at his return, Jim realizes that they
can never understand how his war experiences have changed him. When he later confesses to his
mother that he is in love with Melisande, she encourages him to find her. Much later in France,
Melisande and her mother are working in the fields when Melisande spots a distant figure coming
across the hills towards them slowly. Incredulous, Melisande recognizes Jim and the two are reunited.

Plot Synopsis from afi.com
Directed by:
King Vidor
George W. Hill - uncredited

Written by:  
Harry Behn - scenario
Joseph Farnham - titles
Laurence Stallings - screenplay (uncredited)
King Vidor - uncredited

Based on the story "Plumes" by Laurence Stallings
~Cast~

John Gilbert ...  James Apperson
Renée Adorée ...  Melisande
Hobart Bosworth ...  Mr. Apperson
Claire McDowell ...  Mrs. Apperson
Claire Adams ...  Justyn Reed
Robert Ober ...  Harry Apperson
Tom O'Brien ...  Bull
Karl Dane ...  Slim
Rosita Marstini ...  Melisande's mother
George Beranger ...  Undetermined Minor Role (uncredited)
Harry Crocker ...  Doughboy (uncredited)
Julanne Johnston ...  Justine Devereux (uncredited)
Kathleen Key ...  Miss Apperson (uncredited)
Dan Mason ...  Undetermined Minor Role (uncredited)
Carl 'Major' Roup ...  Doughboy (uncredited)
Carl Voss ...  Officer (uncredited)
~Remaining Credits~

Produced & Released by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Produced by: King Vidor & Irving Thalberg (uncredited)  
Cinematography by: John Arnold & Charles Van Enger   (uncredited)  
Film Editing by:Hugh Wynn    
Casting by: Robert McIntyre    
Costume Design by: Ethel P. Chaffin &
Robert Florey (uncredited)  
Unit Production Manager: Dave Friedman (uncredited)  
Assistant Director: David Howard  
Settings: James Basevi & Cedric Gibbons
Set Designer:
Robert Florey
Special Photographic Effects: Max Fabian (uncredited)  
Electrician: Carl Barlow
Additional Photographer: Hendrik Sartov
Still Photographer: Ruth Harriet Louise  
Military Advisor: Carl Voss

Length: 13 Reels
Runtime: 141 Minutes
Released: November 5, 1925
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