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Movie Review

Noel Coward’s Cavalcade

(30 December 1933)

From The Militant, Vol. VI No. 57, 30 December 1933, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

As movies go Noel Coward’s Cavalcade is an old picture. Fox turned it out almost a year ago. The thing got so much publicity, and was talked about by so many people we got curious about it. And we figured that workers felt the same way about it. So we went to see it.

This is what we found: a story which begins in the Victorian era in England and takes us through to 1933. In a way it is a love story. But it is a much more ambitious production than a mere tale of heart beats. The producers think, no doubt, that they have made a faithful chronicle of an epoch that has passed into history and truthfully recorded the life of a generation.

Let us take them on their own terms. What do they tell us about these years and the people who move across the screen? The central figures, man and wife, who are happily married ten years at the opening of the picture, obviously belong to the upper class. They live in a big house, have servants, and move in elite circles. The source of their income is not even indicated. A sordid detail in a story of love that endures through the ages!

The war against the Boers separates them for a time. In the elaborate scenes of the fervor that overtakes every patriotic British citizen the producers who are, no doubt, opposed to propaganda in the movies have an opportunity to tell us the truth about the brutal course that empire treads. Do they? Not a bit. The war is only an incident in the love life of four people.

Do men die in the brush? Are Boers murdered to establish Britannia’s might? These are unimportant details, are not mentioned in polite society. But our hero comes back at the head of his troop, safe and sound, very much in love with his wife, and is knighted.

The queen dies and everybody dresses in black. This signalizes the close of the Victorian era. The world moves on. The butler and his wife, the maid, leave to open a pub. The children grow up. The butler turns out to be a drunkard who dies in a street accident.

The elder son goes down with his bride on the Titanic on their honeymoon. The World War comes. Father and son do their duty. The latter falls in love with the daughter of the dead butler. She is now a famous musical comedy dancer.

The girl’s mother goes round to see the boy’s mother about the affair. Servant confronts mistress. The mistress is still the same courteous, kindly, sweet woman she has always been toward her servants. But the former maid; she dresses ridiculously and put on airs. Her pretensions of equality are so much vulgarity. Oh, the lower orders! Unworthy wretches, drunkards, ungrateful, offensive. They don’t know that quality is inborn.

It is armistice day. The painful interview between mistress and former servant is terminated by a telegram announcing the death of the boy. The girl becomes a night club blues singer. Her mother disappears from the chronicle.

Come crises, revolutions. The world moves at a faster tempo. It is restless, nervous – the twentieth century is full blast. But the old house – it is still the same. Nothing changes here; not custom, not the very furniture (only the curtains are changed one week before the close), and certainly not the people in it. At the end as in the beginning they have each other; they are still in love; that counts more than all else in the world.

Is there a moral to this story? You bet. Old virtues are the best. Just how to the line of bourgeois morality and the world will muddle through somehow. It is not your business to remake the world. Just look at the butler; he was not satisfied with his station in life and kindly treatment. He tried to remake his world and he came to an untimely end. Do your duty; be content with your lot; love your wife! It is written – by Noel Coward and Fox.

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