Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Big Parade (1925)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Big Parade (1925)

In King Vidor's war-drama epic:

  • the spectacular view of 200 trucks and hundreds of troops moving up to the front in a single-file "big parade" on a dirt road, and another view of soldiers marching together
  • World War I American soldier James Apperson's (John Gilbert) first sighting of French-speaking peasant girl Melisande (Renee Adoree), highlighted in a circular peep-hole in a barrel on his head; shortly later as some of James' soldier friends bathed, she caught his eye watching the naked men - and they introduced themselves to each other with a hand-shake
French Peasant Girl Melisande (Renee Adoree):
A Growing Romance with GI James Apperson (John Gilbert)
  • the marvelous, fully pantomimed, classic scene (filmed in a single, uninterrupted take after they sat down on a bench beside her front steps) in which James introduced Melisande to American chewing gum (she swallowed it with one large gulp and then politely refused his offer of a second piece); with broken French, he boldly and awkwardly attempted to tell her of his love, and she reciprocated the attempt in broken English, and resisted his advances for a kiss; however, during their eight o'clock date that evening, when they both retreated to the wine cellar, in candlelight, he pointed out what he wanted to say to her about his love for her from his French primer; she beamed a smile back at him and they both shared a delicious, long kiss; when they rendezvoused later, their passion was released in a flood of kisses by the stream's edge under a tree
The Classic Farewell Sequence
  • the memorable farewell sequence in which Melisande desperately looked for James as his military platoon was departing from her village; when she spotted him, she ran into his arms as he jumped off a truck; they wildly embraced and peppered each other with kisses - framed in close-up; earnestly, he vowed to return to her in the touching scene: "I'm coming back! - Remember - - - I'm coming back!"; as he was dragged into the tail end of a truck, Melisande held on firmly to his left leg - refusing to let go; she desperately hung onto a chain dangling off the vehicle, trying to halt the inevitable and defy both time and fate; when she wouldn't let go, she was dragged alongside the procession until she couldn't hold on any longer
  • James tossed her his wristwatch, his dogtags, and one shoe, and then sprayed her with two-handed kisses; she stood and watched the truck disappear - holding his shoe to her bosom; the passing vehicles and clouds of dust enveloped her - and then subsided; in the middle of the road, she sank to her knees with her head bowed
  • the harrowingly realistic battle scene of the soldiers' chilling march into enemy machine gun sniper fire at Belleau Wood
  • the scene of James being trapped in a shell hole with a young dying German soldier and the moving moment when he gave him a cigarette
  • the scene of his desperate search for Melisande
  • the homecoming scene in which he appeared missing a leg and the shocked reaction of his parents (especially his mother who recalled him as a healthy baby boy with two legs)
  • and the finale of his return at war's end - when amputee Jim hobbled with a wooden leg down a long road toward a long-overdue reunion in France with Melisande - they joyously embraced and kissed each other to end the film

American GIs in Europe During WWI

Chewing Gum Lesson and Kiss for Melisande

US Homecoming: James' Injury (Missing Leg)

Reunion in France


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