John Drury saves Duke, a wild horse accused of murder, and trains him. When he discovers that the real murderer, a bad guy known as The Hawk, is the town's leading citizen, Drury arrested on a fraudulent charge.
Lem goes to Chicago to sell the wheat his family has grown on their farm in Minnesota. There he meets the waitress Kate. They fall in love and get married before going back to the farm. ... See full summary »
Quirt Evans, an all round bad guy, is nursed back to health and sought after by Penelope Worth, a Quaker girl. He eventually finds himself having to choose between his world and the world Penelope lives in.
Tom Brown shows up at Harvard, confident and a bit arrogant. He becomes a rival of Bob McAndrew, not only in football and rowing crew, but also for the affections of Mary Abbott, a ... See full summary »
The Wrecker wrecks trains on the L & R Railroad. One of his victims is Larry Baker's father. Baker wants to find the evildoer, among a host of suspects, but it will be difficult since the ... See full summary »
While at West Point Denton rebuffs Evelyn Palmer who shows up later as the wife of his commanding officer in Arizona. When he takes a shine to her sister Bonita, Evelyn accuses him of ... See full summary »
Breck leads a wagon train of pioneers through Indian attack, storms, deserts, swollen rivers, down cliffs and so on while looking for the murder of a trapper and falling in love with Ruth. Written by
Ed Stephan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This was Marion Morrison's first major movie role and the producers didn't like his name. They told Raoul Walsh (the director) Morrison needed a new name. Several names were suggested, one of them from Walsh, who had just read about American Revolutionary War general 'Mad' Anthony Wayne. The studio took the hint, added the first name John and the rest was history. See more »
(at around 10 mins) Breck Coleman leans his rifle against the water pump, then leaves it there and goes into the house. Not something a 'real' frontiersman would do. See more »
Only three years after Able Gance's "Napoleon," was released in the revolutionary Spherical (1:33:1) and Triptych (4:00:1 aspect ratio) process, Raoul Walsh's "The Big Trail" hit the market, shot in then-experimental "Fox Grandeur 70 mm."
That alone makes "The Big Trail" a technically significant film. Word has it that it failed economically, in part due to only two U.S. theatres presenting its original format (NYC's Roxy and LA's Grauman's Chinese Theatres). The rest of the country's movie houses balked at the cost of the extra equipment necessary, after having recently converted to sound. (Does this seem reminiscent of the "'Star Wars' digital satellite controversy" of 2002?)
Finding a VHS or DVD widescreen print of "The Big Trail" is difficult. It's been shown on tv and in special movie houses that way on occasion. Generally, though, one gets a standard screen version, which fails to capture the eye-popping 70 mm. aspect ratio of the original.
The production's statistics are impressive--a 347 cast/crew, covering 7 states in 10 weeks, replete with wagons, cattle, oxen, mules, horses, et al., retracing the first settler's trek over the Oregon trail one hundred years earlier.
Twenty year old Marion Morrison was renamed John Wayne and teamed with nineteen year old Broadway actress Margurite Churchill for a hoped-for "hot screen combination." The two worked efficiently, with Wayne's untrained, natural talent in evidence.
The production looks very laborious and challenging--yet appropriate to the conditions of those early pioneers. European "superiority" vs. Native American "savagery" is expressed in the script--establishing a skewed perspective for numerous films to follow. Likewise, macho "frontier justice" is forcefully dramatized--a model for many later western efforts.
"The Big Trail," while a technical landmark, also presents a Hollywoodized depiction of American history. For a more complete understanding of this period and these events, one is prone to engage in more committed and comprehensive research.
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