Gus, the trusty family retainer, has hopes of riding his boss' horse, Big Boy, to victory at the Kentucky Derby.

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Gus
...
Annabel
Louise Closser Hale ...
Mother
...
Jack
Eddie Phillips ...
Coley Reed
Lew Harvey ...
Doc Wilbur
Franklin Batie ...
Jim
John Harron ...
Joe
Tom Wilson ...
Tucker
Colin Campbell ...
Steve Leslie
...
Bagby
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Storyline

Gus, the trusty family retainer, has hopes of riding his boss' horse, Big Boy, to victory at the Kentucky Derby.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Release Date:

11 September 1930 (USA)  »

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1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first of two Jolson Broadway vehicles to be filmed; the other was Wonder Bar (1934). See more »

Soundtracks

Tomorrow Is Another Day
(1930) (uncredited)
Music by Sam H. Stept
Lyrics by Bud Green
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User Reviews

 
Jolie And The Horse
22 January 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Big Boy was one of two Al Jolson films that were taken from Broadway shows Jolson starred in. The other one was Wonder Bar. In this case it allows us the only filmed record of the kind of character Jolson played in his shows.

As it is here, the character is usually named Gus and he's black and Jolson does him in blackface as sadly he's identified today.

On Broadway Big Boy ran for 176 performances during the 1924 season and in his usual fashion Jolson always interpolated his own material in it, sometimes discarding songs and adding them during the run. One song he discarded was one he felt was not working for him during the Broadway run and he gave it to his number one rival Eddie Cantor. It turned out to be If You Knew Susie.

The film follows the plot of the stage show. Jolson plays the old family retainer of a Kentucky bluegrass family and part of his duties is to ride and take care of the horses, most especially their thoroughbred contender for the Kentucky Derby named, Big Boy.

But there's skullduggery afoot. There's a plot by some gamblers to fix the Derby for another horse. That calls for separating Al from his beloved equine charge. Of course you know it all turn out right in the end.

During the play and the film, there's a flashback sequence in which Jolson plays his own grandfather and saves a young bride from the lecherous advances of Noah Beery. In the film Beery identifies himself as a Klansman and I have to say that Jolson, servile and all as he is, does in fact save the day. Of course while doing his shuffling act, he gets quite a few zingers in.

When the story ended as it did for Jolie on Broadway, he'd remove the blackface and usually sing a medley of his hits per request from the audience. That's what happens here also though none of the songs from Big Boy the film gained any popularity.

One thing I cannot figure out is during the Broadway run, Jolson got two reasonably big hits from the show, Hello 'Tucky Hello and Keep Smiling At Trouble. Why they weren't sung in the film is beyond me.

It's not a great film, Big Boy contains a lot of racial stereotypes that people would find offensive. But to see what Jolson was like on stage, this is the closest we'll ever come to it.


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