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The following written statement appears in the onscreen credits: "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gratefully acknowledges the splendid cooperation of the Second Division, United States Army and Air Service Units, Kelly Field." The copyright notice for the film indicates that some sequences in the film were tinted in color, but there were no tinted sequences in the viewed print. The titles in the viewed print listed Western Electric Sound System, suggesting the titles were from a re-release print.
The Big Parade had its world premiere in Hollywood, CA at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre on November 5, 1925. The film opened at the Astor Theater in New York City on November 19, 1925 and ran there for nearly two years. According to the Variety review of the film, some of the title cards featuring soldier "Jim Apperson" cursing in despair upon the death of his buddy "Slim" were dropped for the New York screening. A brief scene in which Jim touches a German soldier's face with a cigarette to ascertain that the German is dead was also reportedly deleted.
Pre-release sources list the film's length as 13 reels, 12,550 feet. In his autobiography, director King Vidow indicated that, following the film's Los Angeles premiere, New York distributors requested that he cut one reel to allow them to fit in additional daily screenings. Rather than remove any one scene, Vidor went through each of the film's thirteen reels and excised several frames throughout until he had removed 800 feet.
The Big Parade was written by Laurence Stallings, a veteran of World War I, who, like the film's hero, lost a leg as a result of war wounds. In 1924, Stallings co-wrote the successful war-themed play What Price Glory?, which was later filmed by Fox Film, Inc. in 1926 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). In his autobiography, Vidor stated that In 1924 he had asked M-G-M's head of production, Irving Thalberg for the opportunity to make a "serious" picture. The men agreed to search for an appropriate war story, and when Stallings' play caught Thalberg's attention, the writer was hired. Vidor added that after Thalberg approved Stallings' story synopsis of The Big Parade, Vidor prepared himself for the subject by screening numerous documentary films made by the U. S. Army Signal Corps during World War I. Upon viewing footage of a group of soldiers solemnly escorting a funeral cortege, Vidor was inspired to choreograph the filming of the American forces' march through Belleau Wood to the beat of a metronome amplified by a bass drum to heighten the sense of foreboding and death.
Vidor also stated that several American and British veterans hired for the film considered Vidor's directions of moving to the drum beat ludicrous. During the film's premiere at the Egyptian Theatre, Vidor requested that the orchestra remain silent during the sequence to allow the visual cadence to become apparent to the audience. The sequence went on to become one of the film's signature pieces and one of the most famous of the silent era. Vidor revealed that another of the film's most famous scenes, in which Jim teaches his French girl friend "Melisande" how to chew gum, was inspired by chance when playwright Donald Ogden Stewart visited the set just as Vidor was struggling with how to stage Jim and Melisande's first innocent love scene. Stewart was chewing gum and Vidor realized that gum would be completely unfamiliar to a French country girl.
According to Variety, electrician Carl Barlow died during the filming when he fell from a platform. Additional information from Vidor's autobiography indicated that the film was shot on location at Griffith Park, Elysian Park in Los Angeles and in Texas.
The Big Parade is frequently described as the most successful silent film of all time and according to information in the Eddie Mannix Collection at the AMPAS Library, at the time of its initial release the film earned over six million dollars, second only to M-G-M's 1925 production of Ben-Hur (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30). New York Times placed The Big Parade at the top of its list of best films for 1925, praising it as "the top-notch photoplay of the year" and "unusually original in detail." The Variety review of the film called it "the best of the war pictures" and praised John Gilbert's performance as "superb" and a "triumph for [director King] Vidor." The review went on to commend the musical score by David Mendzoa and William Axt as rivaling that of D. W. Griffith's 1915 production, Birth of a Nation. An August 1967 Variety article indicates that Janus Films was to cut the 130 minute film down to 52 minutes for release to collegiate film groups. The viewed print ran approximately 124 minutes. In 1988 The Big Parade was one of the silent films selected by British Thames television to receive a new score composed by Carl Davis.