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The Big Bonanza (1944)

Approved | | Western | 30 December 1944 (USA)
Having been falsely court marshaled for cowardice and sentenced to prison by the Army, Jed Kilton escapes and heads to Nevada Springs to see his kid brother. There he meets his old school ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Stuart McGowan) | 3 more credits »




Complete credited cast:
Sam Ballou
Chiquita McSweeney
Hap Selby
Judy Parker
Spud Kilton
J.M. Kerrigan ...
Judge Jasper Kincaid
Dr. Ballou
Cordell Hickman ...
Sheriff Dan Pendleton
Henchman Roberts
The Singer


Having been falsely court marshaled for cowardice and sentenced to prison by the Army, Jed Kilton escapes and heads to Nevada Springs to see his kid brother. There he meets his old school friend Sam Ballou. But the two old friends soon find themselves on opposite sides and Sam has Jed arrested. Then when Jed's young brother sees one of Sam's men kill another man, the boy becomes Sam's intended victim. Written by Maurice VanAuken <vanauken@comcast.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Days of Treachery! Nights of Romance! See more »








Release Date:

30 December 1944 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Grande Bonança  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Richard Arlen and Bobby Driscoll play brothers in this film despite a nearly 40-year difference in their ages. See more »


Spud Kilton: [Spud is keen to introduce his friends to his big brother, the Army man] I want you to meet my brother, Jed. Jed, this is Jimmy.
Captain Jed Kilton: Hello, Jimmy.
Spud Kilton: His mother and father are Chinese.
Jimmy: Yes.
Spud Kilton: [then he turns to his black friend] And this is Abraham.
Abraham: My ma and pa are Republicans.
[everyone laughs]
See more »


Up in a Balloon
Written by H. B. Farnie
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User Reviews

MIght have worked for Roy Rogers
19 March 2014 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Richard Arlen joined the ranks of Republic's cowboy heroes in a story set in Civil War times. The Big Bonanza opens with Arlen still in handcuffs having escaped the custody of the Union Army which was going to court martial him for cowardice. He and Gabby Hayes go west to be with his little brother Bobby Driscoll who has gone for a dryer climate. It's what was done back in the day with consumption patients.

With that charge over his head Arlen and Hayes go to Nevada City where Driscoll is in the care of saloon owner Robert Livingston and saloon songstress Jane Frazee. Even though he and Livingston are old pals, Arlen isn't crazy about the moral influence on the kid being raised in a saloon.

He takes Driscoll over to Sunday School teacher Lynne Roberts and her dad Russell Simpson who owns the Big Bonanza mine. It's there that Arlen learns his old pal Livingston is the organizer of a gang threatening mine owners and ranchers.

Arlen's not quite the Republic cowboy hero image and having him and Driscoll as brothers is ridiculous, there's more than 40 years between them. What might have worked for Roy Rogers in the same part looks dumb with Arlen.

As for Livingston we're led to believe that he cares for young Bobby. But when Bobby witnesses a murder by two of Livingston's henchmen all of a sudden Livingston's for killing a child that he's supposed to care about. Made no sense at all.

I'm sure this was something that might have been meant for Roy Rogers, but he was now doing modern westerns and this was passed to a visiting Arlen at Republic Studios. Maybe Roy was right to pass.

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