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J. Farrell MacDonald
Jim Deakins is a frontiersman and Indian trader who is making a perilous journey with a group of other men up the Missouri River to get a large haul of furs from friendly Blackfoot Indians. The problem is that they have to get through hostile Indian territory first and they find that they have seriously underestimated the difficulties they will undergo. The large body of men who started the journey are gradually whittled down until only a hardy few, like Deakins, are left. Written by
While shooting Red River (1948), there was a scene that director Howard Hawks unsuccessfully urged John Wayne to do. It involved his getting a finger mangled between a saddle horn and a rope, resulting in Walter Brennan's amputating it. Hawks reportedly told Wayne, "If you're not good enough, we won't do it", but Wayne wouldn't do it. According to Hawks biographer Todd McCarthy, Hawks did get Kirk Douglas to do that scene in this film, and it came off so funny that Wayne later declared to Hawks, "If you tell me a funeral is funny, I'll do a funeral." See more »
Story takes place in 1832. Automobiles are visible during prologue. See more »
Instead of the traditional RKO morse code sound, the film's opening theme music is played over the RKO radio tower image. Later, a title card is displayed explaining the premise of the story. See more »
`The land sure is big here, only the sky is bigger.'
The Big Sky is generally considered inferior and less important compared to Red River, the Western Howard Hawks directed in 1948 or four years before this one and which already has a status of a classic and Hawk's masterpiece. Howard Hawks himself wasn't pleased very much with the final result because he wanted John Wayne to play Kirk Douglas's role and mainly because the studio insisted on cutting out 20 minutes of the film to facilitate its distribution. In a conversation with Peter Bogdanovich Hawks later recalled that he had a difficulty recognizing his own film after seeing it in that `butchered' version.
But in my opinion The Big Sky stands on the level of Howard Hawk's best work remarkable for its visual beauty (though filming it in colour would definitely improve it), fine performances (Kirk Douglas is magnificent here and it's hard to imagine other actor playing this role), wonderful music from Dimitri Tiomkin and interesting story of, basically, friendship, that even might be called love, between the two main characters of Jim Deakins (Kirk Douglas) and Dewey Martin (Boone Caudill) but friendship on a background of a perilous and adventurous journey up the Missouri river to the Indian territory where no white man ever set his foot before, with a group of peculiar French adventurers and an Indian princess Teal Eye (Elizabeth Threatt) who steals their hearts and threatens their friendship.
A must see classic. 9/10
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