Cavalcade (1933)

Una O'Connor, Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook

'Cavalcade' is a dramatic film about an upper class English family and their servants, directed by Frank Lloyd and starring Clive Brook, Diana Wynyard, Una O'Connor and Herbert Mundin. It was an adaptation of the 1931 hit London stage play of the same name, by Noel Coward, which ran for 405 performances.

The movie was a major financial success, grossing over seven times its production costs and it was also well received by the critics, being nominated for four Academy Awards and winning three, including Best Picture and best Director for Frank Lloyd. It was Lloyd's second Directing Oscar after winning in 1930 for 'The Divine Lady' and he would be nominated a third time for 'Mutiny on the Bounty' in 1935.

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Lloyd manages the difficult task of avoiding making the film look too stage-bound. Enough of Coward's witty dialogue remains to give the movie some zest and the cinematography is beautifully done. It does show its age, however, and some of the acting is hammy and too stilted for modern tastes.

'Cavalcade' shows perfectly how the Victorian era was viewed in the 1930's. The message of the movie is of the inexorable passage of time and with new ideas and technology comes the destruction of the mores and certainties of the Victorian era as the British Empire comes to an end.


The film tells an entertaining tale as it traces thirty eventful years in the lives of members of an upper class London family, the Marryots, and the family of servants who work for them, the Bridges, from New Year's Eve, 1899 to New Year's Eve, 1932. The tale follows their fortunes as they experience dramatic changes in social values and is set against the background of various historic events such as the Boer War, the sinking of the Titanic, the First World War and the Great Depression.


The play 'Cavalcade' was written by the English playwright and songwriter, Noel Coward. It premiered at the Theatre Royal in London in 1931 and was a spectacular production involving a huge cast and massive sets. The play was very successful and ran for 405 performances for almost a year before closing in September, 1932.

Fox Film Corporation paid Coward $100,000 for the film rights and for the rights to use his copyrighted songs, an extremely high figure for the time. Frank Borzage was the original choice to direct but Fox decided decided to use a director with a British background and selected Frank Lloyd, a Scotsman who had lived in London for many years.

The movie had a shooting schedule of nine weeks and it was mainly filmed at Fox's Movietone City in Westwood, in northern Los Angeles, where various Various London landmarks, such as Kensington Gardens, Trafalgar Square, and Victoria Station were recreated. Other scenes were shot at the Mason Opera House in Los Angeles and at the Sausal-Redondo Ranch, Los Angeles County.

The making of 'Cavalcade' was a major undertaking. According to promotional material distributed by the producers, the film had 40 principal parts, 150 speaking parts, 15,000 minor characters including more than 2,500 actors in one scene, and 25,000 costumes had to be made.

Many of the cast members were chosen by the dialogue director, George Hadden, who went to England to make his selections. Three actresses, Una O'Connor (as Ellen), Irene Browne (as Margaret Harris, Jane's friend), and Merle Tottenham (as Annie) recreated their stage roles for the movie. Dickie Henderson, who played Edward Marryot as a boy, later became famous in Britain as a comedian and television entertainer.

Main Cast

Diana Wynyard ... Jane Marryot
Clive Brook ... Robert Marryot
Una O'Connor ... Ellen Bridges
Herbert Mundin ... Alfred Bridges
Irene Browne ... Margaret Harris
Margaret Lindsay ... Edith Harris
John Warburton ... Edward Marryot
Bonita Granville ... Young Fanny
Douglas Walton ... Soldier
Billy Bevan ... George Grainger
Desmond Roberts ... Ronnie James
Dickie Henderson ... Master Edward (as Dick Henderson Jr.)


Director ... Frank Lloyd
Producer ... Frank Lloyd, Winfield R. Sheehan
Screenplay ... Reginald Berkeley, Sonya Levien
Based on the play by ... Noel Coward
Music ... Peter Brunelli, Louis De Francesco, Arthur Lange, J.S. Zamecnik
Cinematography ... Ernest Palmer
Format ... B & W
Distribution Company ... Fox Film Corporation
Release date ... April 15, 1933
Running time ... 110 minutes

Academy Awards

Three Wins:
Best Picture ... Fox Film Corporation
Best Director ... Frank Lloyd
Best Art Direction ... William S. Darling
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Actress ... Diana Wynyard