The Big Trail (1930)

Passed  |   |  Adventure, Western, Romance  |  1 November 1930 (USA)
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Reviews: 53 user | 34 critic

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


, (uncredited)


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Certificate: Passed Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

Deputy Sheriff John Steele recruits bandit Sonora Joe to help him find out who's been bumping off all the local lawmen and rustling the cattle.

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.1/10 X  

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    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.4/10 X  

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In Kansas, during the Civil War opposing pro-Union and pro-Confederate camps clash and visiting Texan Bob Seton runs afoul of William Cantrell's Raiders.

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Ranch hand Rocklin arrives in town to start his new job but his employer has been murdered and the locals don't seem too friendly.

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Certificate: Passed Comedy | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

In 1871 Dakota, two crooked businessmen oppose the local wheat farmers and the railroad development, in order to control the town of Fargo.

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Stars: Laura La Plante, John Wayne, June Clyde


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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Most Important Picture Ever Produced


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 November 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail  »

Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print) | (TCM print)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


John Wayne's first major movie role. Raoul Walsh was having trouble casting the movie when he saw Wayne taking furniture off a truck. Wayne worked for the studio in the prop department. See more »


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 »


Red Flack, Wagon Boss: Well, if it ain't Bill Thorpe, hey? I always thought you was hung and planted, I expect.
Bill Thorpe: No, my time ain't arrived yet.
Red Flack, Wagon Boss: But it looks as though it might be drawing close.
Bill Thorpe: Well, I've been promised a hanging bee if I don't get out on the Penzy Belle, and the Captain promised me a necktie party if I set foot on the boat. It's a case of nowhere to go.
Red Flack, Wagon Boss: It appears to me you do your shooting by daylight with too many people looking on, hey?
See more »


Alternate-language version of Die große Fahrt (1931) See more »


Gruss (Leise zieht durch mein Gemüth)
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Words from a poem by Heinrich Heine (only instrumental)
See more »

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User Reviews

Trailblazing,.....sort of
18 June 2006 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

John Wayne is one of the few players in film history to have failed at his first big break and then succeed on the second time around. Of course everyone knows the second time was the classic Stagecoach with John Ford directing.

But we're here to talk about The Big Trail. John Ford's fellow director Raoul Walsh spotted this tall kid on the set of one of Ford's films and thought he had potential. He wanted to make him the lead in a big budget western that Fox was planning to do. The film as planned would be an homage to the famous classic silent western The Covered Wagon.

In watching The Big Trail I was struck by how similar Wayne's character of Breck Coleman here is to the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach. Both characters were likable young cowpokes, but both were also on a mission of vengeance. And of course both films were done on location and show the expense in making them. No studio product here with a backlot western set.

I also don't think that it was an accident that Wayne got this break at the beginning of the sound era. Raoul Walsh, I'm guessing looked around Hollywood and probably didn't think a whole lot of movie cowboys would have staying power in sound. That's something else Walsh spotted in Wayne.

According to what I've read The Big Trail flopped because after spending all that money to make the film in an early wide screen process, some genius at Fox realized that their theaters weren't equipped with the wide screen to show it. And when the Great Depression hit there would be no money to widen those screens at Fox movie houses. So The Big Trail got a limited release, even in what we would call a formatted version, and lost money big for Fox films.

Marguerite Churchill is fine as the crinoline heroine who Duke wins, loses and wins again from Ian Keith. Keith, Charles Stevens and F. Tyrone Power are the trio of villains Wayne has to deal with.

F. Tyrone Power is the father of the famous movie legend Tyrone Power. He was a big burly man with a grand background in classic roles on screen and on stage. I wouldn't be surprised if his son who would have been 15 at the time might not have been hanging around the set.

Also look for Ward Bond though you might have trouble spotting him under a big bushy beard.

Watching The Big Trail now it is interesting to speculate where John Wayne's career might have gone if The Big Trail had been a big hit.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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