After director King Vidor complained to MGM production chief Irving Thalberg that he was tired of shooting pictures that played in theaters for just one week, he told Thalberg about a new kind of realistic war movie he had envisioned. Thalberg was enthusiastic about Vidor's vision, and tried to buy the rights to the hit Broadway play "What Price Glory?" co-written by Maxwell Anderson and World War I Marine veteran Laurence Stallings. Since the rights to the popular anti-war play had already been acquired, Thalberg hired Stallings to come to Hollywood and write a screenplay for the new, realistic war picture that Vidor had dreamed about making. Stallings came up with "The Big Parade", an anti-war story that dispensed with traditional concepts of heroism, focusing instead on a love story between a Yank soldier and a French girl. After Vidor completed principal photography (at a cost of $200,000, approximately $2.1 million in 2003 dollars), Thalberg took the rough cut and previewed it before live audiences in Colorado. The audiences responded favorably, and Thalberg decided to expand the scope of the picture, as Vidor had created a war picture without many scenes of war. He had Vidor restage the famo
Four years after making "The Big Parade," King Vidor restaged one of its most famous scenes - Jimmy going off to battle and leaving Melisande behind - in Show People, a comedy starring Marion Davies as an actress trying to become a Hollywood star. In "Show People" Davies and William Haines played the parts originally played in "The Big Parade" by 'Renee Adoree' and 'John Gilbert'.
Included among the '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die', edited by Steven Jay Schneider.
Is the highest grossing silent film of all time, making $22 million during its worldwide release
Studio electrician Carl Barlow died during production when he slipped and fell off a platform.
The movie was a huge hit. When MGM discovered that a clause in director King Vidor's contract entitled him to 20% of the net profits, studio lawyers called a meeting with him. At the meeting, MGM accountants played up the costs of the picture while downgrading the studio forecast of its potential success. Vidor was persuaded to sell his stake in the film for a small sum. The film ran for 96 weeks at the Astor Theater and grossed $5 million (approximately $50 million in 2003 dollars) domestically by 1930, making it the most profitable release in MGM history at that point. Said Vidor, "I thus spared myself from becoming a millionaire instead of a struggling young director trying to do something interesting and better with a camera."
The U.S. War Department - the predecessor of the Department of Defense - loaned the film's producers over 200 army trucks, approximately 4,000 soldiers and over 100 airplanes for use in the film.
The unit portrayed is the 42d Infantry Division (Rainbow Division) as determined by the three color (red-yellow-blue) rainbow patch (long version) worn on the upper left sleeve of the uniform. Casualties were so high that post-war the patch was cut in half and worn on the forward half of the sleeve instead of centered because "we left half our rainbow in France." During the transport scene the tailgates of the trucks are all painted with "42" and then the truck number. The credits thank the 2d Division (Indianhead) so painting the "4" prior to the pre-existing "2" may have facilitated that. The 42d Division was later a New York Army National Guard unit and you could find units in Syracuse, Geneva, etc.