Theatrical poster
Directed byFrank Lloyd
Screenplay byReginald Berkeley
Sonya Levien (continuity)
Based onCavalcade
1931 play
by Noël Coward
Produced byFrank Lloyd
Winfield R. Sheehan
StarringDiana Wynyard
Clive Brook
Una O'Connor
Irene Browne
Herbert Mundin
Frank Lawton
Merle Tottenham
Beryl Mercer
CinematographyErnest Palmer
Edited byMargaret Clancey
Music byPeter Brunelli
Louis De Francesco
Arthur Lange
J. S. Zamecnik
Distributed byFox Film Corporation
Release date
  • April 15, 1933 (1933-04-15)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,004,000 (domestic rentals)[1]
$3.5 million (worldwide rentals)[2]

Cavalcade is a 1933 American epic pre-Code drama film directed by Frank Lloyd. The screenplay by Reginald Berkeley and Sonya Levien is based on the 1931 play of the same title by Noël Coward. The film stars Diana Wynyard and Clive Brook.

The story presents a view of English life during the first third of the 20th century from New Year's Eve 1899 to New Year's Day 1933, from the point of view of well-to-do London residents Jane and Robert Marryot, their children, their close friends, and their servants. Several historical events affect the lives of the characters or serve as background for the film, including the Second Boer War, the death of Queen Victoria, the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and World War I. Throughout the film, the passage of years is indicated by dates on title cards, with a Medieval cavalcade marching in the background.

The film won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.


On the last day of 1899, Jane and Robert Marryot, an upper-class couple, return to their townhouse in a fashionable area of London before midnight, so they can keep their tradition of celebrating the new year with a midnight toast. Jane worries because Robert has joined the City of London Imperial Volunteers (CIV) as an officer, and will soon be leaving to serve in the Second Boer War. The Marryots' butler Alfred Bridges has joined the CIV as a private and is also leaving soon. His wife Ellen, the Marryots' maid, worries about what will become of her and their new baby Fanny if Alfred is killed or seriously injured. At midnight, the Marryot and Bridges families ring in the new century while Cook dances with other revelers in the street. While Robert is away at war, Jane's friend Margaret Harris keeps her company and gives her emotional support. Robert and Alfred return home unharmed and Robert is knighted for his service.

Alfred announces that he has bought his own pub with money partly provided by Robert, and he and Ellen will be leaving service and moving to a flat. As the downstairs staff have a cup of tea to celebrate Alfred's return, they receive news of the death of Queen Victoria.

A few years later, Alfred has developed alcoholism and is managing the pub poorly. Ellen plans a genteel social evening when Jane Marryot and her son Edward, who is now in college at Oxford, pay a visit to the Bridgeses' flat. Ellen does not tell Alfred about the visit and lies to the Marryots that he can't attend due to a leg injury. Alfred shows up drunk, acts rudely and destroys a doll that Jane had given Fanny, causing Fanny to run away. Alfred chases Fanny into the street, where he is fatally run over by a horse-drawn fire engine.

The following year, Ellen and Fanny Bridges encounter the Marryot family at the seaside, where Ellen and Fanny are living off the proceeds from the pub, now owned by Ellen. Fanny has become a talented dancer and singer. Edward Marryot has fallen in love with his childhood playmate Edith Harris. The family witnesses the historic flight by Louis Blériot over the English Channel. Edward and Edith marry and subsequently die in the Sinking of the RMS Titanic.

Fanny and Joe

Robert and Joe Marryot both serve as officers in World War I. While on leave, Joe reconnects with Fanny Bridges, now a performer in a nightclub. Fanny and Joe fall in love and Joe spends most of his leave time with her, unbeknownst to his parents. He proposes, but she hesitates to accept due to the difference in their social classes. Just after armistice is announced in 1918, Ellen reveals the affair to Jane and demands that Joe marry Fanny when he returns. While Jane and Ellen argue, Jane receives a telegram informing her that Joe has been killed in battle.

The film ends on New Year's Day 1933, with Jane and Robert, now elderly, carrying on their tradition of celebrating the new year with a midnight toast to their memories, as well as to the future.



Fox Movietone newsreel cameramen were sent to London to record the original stage production as a guide for the film adaptation.

Frank Borzage was originally going to direct, but he departed in June 1932 to work on another project. Fox production head Winfield Sheehan decided to use a British director due to the film's setting, and Frank Lloyd was brought on board. Production took place from early October to November 29, 1932.[3]

The film was one of the first to use the words "damn" and "hell", as in "Hell of a lot". These had been used in the play. There was concern at the Hays Office that this could set a precedent. Fox president Sidney Kent was quoted saying the mild profanity "could not offend any person; and, after all, that was the real purpose of the Code. And as far as the use creating a precedent which might be followed by other producers is concerned, the best answer would be that anyone who could make a picture as good as Cavalcade might be justified in following the precedent."[3]

The film premiered in New York City on January 5, 1933, but did not go into general theatrical release until April 15.[3]


In addition to several original compositions by Coward, more than fifty popular songs, national anthems, hymns, ballads, and topical tunes relevant to the years portrayed were used in the film. Songs appearing in the film include:


Box office

Cavalcade was an instant commercial success, earning $1,004,000 in North American rentals,[1] and $3.5 million in worldwide rentals.[2] It made over US$1 million in the UK.[5] It ended up making an estimated profit of £2,500,000 during its initial theatrical release.[6]

Critical reception

Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times called the film "most affecting and impressive" and added, "In all its scenes there is a meticulous attention to detail, not only in the settings ... but also in the selection of players ... It is unfurled with such marked good taste and restraint that many an eye will be misty after witnessing this production."[7]

The film was reportedly Adolf Hitler's favorite film.[8] During 1934, he and Joseph Goebbels, director of Nazi propaganda films, watched the film twice in March and May.[9]

The film holds a 67% approval rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews, with an average rating of 5.90/10. The site's consensus reads: "Though solidly acted and pleasant to look at, Cavalcade lacks cohesion, and sacrifices true emotion for mawkishness."[10] On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 73 out of 100 based on 13 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[11]

Awards and honors

Cavalcade won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Frank Lloyd won the Academy Award for Best Director, and the Academy Award for Best Art Direction went to William S. Darling.[12] Diana Wynyard was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress but lost to Katharine Hepburn for Morning Glory.

Cavalcade was the first film produced by Fox Film Corporation to win the Best Picture Oscar, and the only one before it merged with 20th Century Pictures in 1935 to form 20th Century Fox.


The Academy Film Archive preserved Cavalcade in 2002.[13]

Home media

Cavalcade was released on a US VHS in 1993.[14]

Cavalcade was initially released on DVD December 7, 2010, as the earliest entry in the 75-film, three-volume "Twentieth Century Fox 75th Anniversary Collection", a prestige set with an initial list price of nearly $500.[15] With the DVD and Blu-ray releases of Wings on January 24, 2012, Cavalcade became the only Best Picture Oscar winner not available on a stand-alone DVD in Region 1.

It was eventually released separately on a US Blu-ray/DVD set on August 6, 2013,[16] after it received the most write-in votes in a Fox online poll.[17]

The film is also available for rental or purchase in HD on various US-restricted digital services.[18][19]

As of May 2019, these are the only official home video releases of Cavalcade anywhere, though several bootlegs are available, most notably a poor-quality DVD and BD-R from Spain.[20]


  1. ^ a b "All-Time Film Rental Champs". Variety. October 15, 1990. p. M150.
  2. ^ a b "The All Time Best Sellers". International Motion Picture Almanac 1937–38. Quigley Publishing Company. p. 942. Retrieved April 8, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Cavalcade". AFI Catalog. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
  4. ^ "Harry Castling (1865–1933)". Retrieved July 12, 2012.
  5. ^ ERNEST MARSHALL.LONDON (April 29, 1934). "NOTES OF THE LONDON SCREEN: British Producers at Last Heed the Demand of the Public for An Improvement in Films – Other Items". The New York Times. p. X4.
  6. ^ "COLOSSAL FIGURES". The Sunday Times. Perth. December 24, 1933. p. 15 Section: First Section. Retrieved March 21, 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Movie Review". The New York Times. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  8. ^ "Lively Leni Riefenstahl Dictator of German Films". The Omaha Morning Bee-News. Omaha, Nebraska. November 22, 1934. p. 3 (login needed). Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  9. ^ Niven, Bill (2018). Hitler and Film - The Führer's Hidden Passion. Yale University Press. p. 12. ISBN 9780300235395.
  10. ^ "Cavalcade (1933)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 8, 2022.
  11. ^ "Cavalcade Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  12. ^ "The New York Times: Cavalcade". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2012. Archived from the original on February 10, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
  13. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  14. ^ "Cavalcade VHS". VHS Collector. Retrieved April 5, 2019.
  15. ^ "Fox 75th Anniversary Collection". Amazon. Retrieved March 6, 2013.
  16. ^ "Cavalcade Blu-ray/DVD set". Amazon. Retrieved August 23, 2013.
  17. ^ "The People Have Spoken! Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment Announces "Voice Your Choice" Winners" (PDF). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. March 6, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2013.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Amazon Prime Video: Cavalcade". Amazon. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  19. ^ "iTunes: Cavalcade". Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  20. ^ "Beware of Pirates! How to Avoid Bootleg Blu-rays and DVDs". Brenton Film.