(Again if you are in my Writing for Electronic Media class and are giving blog feedback my “There was never just one” post right below this one is my information post#5 I did this post on my free time which explains the worse than usual grammar.)
Last semester I took a silent film class. Going into it I was skeptical because I had a stereotype in mind about what a silent movie was like these kids do. What I found instead was a beautiful and unique art form that was not primitive what so ever in fact the only thing radically different than movies now is no dialogue. That doesn’t mean that silent films were silent in fact most theaters used to have a live orchestra playing music so it was sort of a combination of theater going and a concert.
In fact there are many sequences of large grandeur including the legendary Babylonia sequences in the D.W Griffith silent film Intolerance that come to mind. One of the reasons silent films are so negatively perceived is that many silent films were destroyed once sound came along.
So when I decided to start a new post theme about significant movies in box office history either well known or not I decided to start with the often under appreciated silent era. The silent film I’m going to talk about is not well known and not as famous some others. When people think of silent films most look to Chaplin, Keaton, and the highly controversial Birth of a Nation as examples. When The 1925 silent film The Big Parade was released Birth of a Nation was the highest grossing film of all time. A common unknown fact is that this little known film is actually the highest grossing film of the silent era.
The Big Parade is a two and a half hour war/romance epic about WWI. The movie is broken into two parts one part is a foreign romance that the main character has with a French woman. The other part is the most extreme anti war movie that had been released up until that time. This part is often considered the influence for two of the greatest anti war movies of all time All quiet on the Western Front and Saving Private Ryan.
The Big Parade has two famous scenes one is when the main character and the French woman share gum and the French woman doesn’t get the concept and swallows it and a devastating scene where soldiers get killed with a little ping musical noise every time a solider falls.
Another fascinating story about this movie is the star of the film Jon Gilbert had a fall similar to many stars from the silent era. At the time he was one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but When audiences first heard his voice when sound came along they felt it was not what they expected him to sound like. This happened to many stars including another actor Douglas Fairbanks. The fall of these two actors is the inspiration for the Oscar winning film from this year about the silent era The Artist. Imagine a star like George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio falling from the top of the mountain overnight to complete irrelevance then you get the height of the fall of these two actors.
The movie grossed an outstanding for the time $14 million which surpassed the $10 million made by The Birth of a Nation. When released in 1925 the film was such a huge hit with audiences that the film would play in some theaters for over a year. Meaning attendance was so high that theater owners kept playing it continuously for a year before audience attendance finally waned.
One of the reasons this film hasn’t gotten the acknowledgement of some the other famous silent films is there isn’t a true owner of the film. MGM released the film but doesn’t own the rights anymore. There is a group called Kino Video which has been doing amazing film restoration work yet can’t get ownership of this film. VHS copies still exist which is how I saw the film last year but a DVD version is unlikely to come soon.