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The Big Trail (1930)

Passed  |   |  Adventure, Western, Romance  |  1 November 1930 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 2,262 users  
Reviews: 52 user | 33 critic

Breck Coleman leads hundreds of settlers in covered wagons from the Mississippi River to their destiny out West.

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, (uncredited)

Writer:

(story)
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Title: The Big Trail (1930)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Marguerite Churchill ...
El Brendel ...
Gus
...
Zeke
Tyrone Power Sr. ...
Red Flack (as Tyrone Power)
David Rollins ...
Dave Cameron
Frederick Burton ...
Pa Bascom
Ian Keith ...
Bill Thorpe
Charles Stevens ...
Lopez
Louise Carver ...
Gus's mother-in-law
Edit

Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Important Picture Ever Produced


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 November 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail  »

Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(35 mm) | (70 mm) | (FMC Library Print) | (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Incredibly, six different versions of this film were shot simultaneously. (1) a 70mm version in the Grandeur process for exhibition in the biggest movie palaces; (2) a standard 35mm version for general release; (3) a 35mm alternate French language version La piste des géants (1931)' (4) a 35 mm alternate Spanish language version La gran jornada (1931),(5) a 35 mm alternate German language version Die große Fahrt (1931)and (6) a 35mm alternate Italian language version Il grande sentiero (1931). The four alternate language versions were shot with (mostly) different casts. See more »

Goofs

In the last scene where Breck and Ruth are reunited, Breck comes up the trail and is seen by Ruth. A close up of Breck shows him carrying his rifle in his right hand. Breck starts to run to meet Ruth.

The shot shifts to a distant shot as we watch Ruth and Breck running to each other. Breck's rifle is now slung over his shoulder. See more »

Quotes

Breck Coleman, Wagon Train Scout: Say, Zeke, who was the he-grizzly that just went by?
Zeke: That's Red Flack. He's bullwhackin' for Wellmore. He's gonna whack Wellmore's train clear through to Oregon.
Windy Bill: You reckon you'll ever find out who downed old Ben?
Breck Coleman, Wagon Train Scout: It's just possible that a certain low-down coyote left his sign there.
See more »

Connections

Alternate-language version of La piste des géants (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

When It's Harvest Time in Peaceful Valley
(1930) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by Robert Martin and Raymond McKee
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Grandeur Version vs. Standard Version: They are not the same.
6 June 2004 | by (Walnut Creek, California) – See all my reviews

Contrary to the comment posted directly below, The Big Trail (1930) was not filmed in a three-camera process "much like the later Cinerama." That was the finale to Napoleon (1927), a different film entirely! The Big Trail was simultaneously shot in both 35mm and 70mm (Grandeur) versions, and both versions are shown on Fox Movie Channel from time to time, so it's easy to compare one with the other. The Grandeur version (broadcast in letterbox @ approximately its original 2-1 ratio) is more impressive cinematically with its wide angle panoramas, but suffers from the same problem that beset early CinemaScopes, a lack of close-ups forced upon director Raoul Walsh because of focus problems. Scenes involving individuals rather than crowds or long shots are much more effective in the standard version because the camera can move closer to the players thereby achieving a greater sense of involvement for the viewer. Watching the two versions simultaneously, one gets an accurate idea of which shots Walsh chose to shoot close-up, in the standard version, but could not, in the Grandeur version. There are also a couple sequences involving El Brendel: a shell game with Ian Keith, and some business with his wife & a jackass, which are in the Grandeur version, but missing from the standard version.

For the record, The Big Trail is the only one of three Fox Grandeur films which has survived in its original wide screen format. (The other two are Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, completely lost, and Happy Days, which survives only in standard format.) Other studios also experimented with wide film at this time, but the only other one still known to exist in both formats is The Bat Whispers, filmed in both 65mm and 35mm, and released by United Artists. Other wide films were MGM's Billy the Kid (1930) and The Great Meadow (1931), RKO's Danger Lights (1930), and WB's The Lash (1930), all of which can be seen in their standard format versions on Turner Classic Movies. WB's Kismet (1930) was also filmed both wide and standard, but seems to have completely disappeared; it is rumored to be lost.

Why did wide film fail in 1930? Theaters were reeling (pun intended) under the impact of the stock market crash of October 1929, and the spiraling costs of installing sound equipment, and so were adverse to taking on the added expense of installing additional new projection equipment and new wider screens to accommodate just a handful of films, photographed in a variety of different systems that were not even always compatible with each other. It would not be until 1953 when Fox, now Twentieth Century-Fox, would try again, and this time succeed, with the introduction of wide screen CinemaScope.


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