Directed by Frank Lloyd
Written by Reginald Berkley, from the play by Noel Coward
Starring Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O’Connor, Herbert Mundin, Frank Lawgon, Ursula Jeans, Joe Warburton
The Academy Awards have had a spotty record of getting things right over the years, especially in the early years when studios instructed their workers to vote for specific films.* It’s interesting to see how well they hold up today. Cavalcade – Best Picture of 1933 – doesn’t do badly.
Starting on the last day of 1899, it shows the lives of two families – the wealthy Marryots, and their servants, the Bridges – over the next thirty years. Jane Marryot (Diana Wynyard) Is always concerned about the well being of her husband Robert (Clive Brook), especially as war and tragedy affects them. Meanwhile Alfred Bridges (Herbert Mundin) and his wife Ellen (Una O’Connor) go out on their own running a pub and raising their daughter Fanny (Ursula Jeans), who becomes an entertainer. She eventually catches the eye of Joe Marryot (Frank Lawton).
|Herbert Mundin, Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, and Una O'Connor|
It was especially nice to see Una O’Connor. She was a very successful character actress in the early days of Hollywood, best known at Minnie, the comic relief maid in Bride of Frankenstein. She had a distinctive look and appeared in over 80 films and TV shows, often as a maid. This is one time I caught her in a dramatic role, and she’s extremely good.
The rest of the cast are mostly unknown to modern viewers, but they all are just fine (though the acting is a bit stagy).
Noel Coward wrote several original songs for the play, including his standard “Twentieth Century Blues.”
Definitely strong dramatic entertainment.
*The Academy was originally set up as a yellow union – company run so that a regular union couldn’t get a foothold and make trouble. The awards were an afterthought.
**There also a scene that plays to a big reveal that is pretty obvious from the start. I imagine audiences of the time didn’t see it coming, but modern viewer might even laugh a bit at the way it’s handled.