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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
As Jim and Boone approach St. Louis, Zeb, narrating, says they saw the town across the Missouri River. St. Louis is on the Mississippi River, and Jim and Boone, coming from Kentucky, would have seen it directly from the east side of that river. 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 »
One of my favorite Kirk Douglas films is The Big Sky where he plays mountain man/trapper Jim Deakins. It's a great part for Douglas with his incredible charm and quick burn when someone does him wrong.
The Big Sky was RKO Pictures big production for 1952. I'd like to say that Howard Hughes spared no expense in making this film, shooting a good deal of it in the Grand Tetons, the actual location for the adventures of many fur trappers. But for the life of me I don't understand why Hughes and RKO after doing that, didn't spring for color.
Possibly because director Howard Hawks wanted black and white. His last epic film Red River had done well in black and white. Still I really think something was missed. RKO did use color on films with a lot less budget.
There's a lot of similarity between The Big Sky and Red River. Both films involve a group of men on an epic journey into the unknown for business reasons. In Red River, John Wayne has to get that huge herd to market and has to use a trail few have used. In The Big Sky a group of independent trappers basically want to land a nice fur contract with the Blackfeet Indians where few whites have gone up the Missouri River. Going against them is a fur trading consortium kind of like the one John Jacob Astor put together.
The trappers are mostly French Canadian Metis headed by Steven Geray, but also along is Arthur Hunnicutt who speaks the Indian language. Their ace in the hole is Elizabeth Threatt, a Blackfoot princess the trappers have rescued and are bringing back to her people in the hopes that her old man will be grateful. Hunnicutt is also the narrator of the film.
Douglas and Dewey Martin join up with the group in St. Louis and the trappers have the usual adventures as they take the flatboat up into the Missouri River country. The scenes showing journey upriver are nicely photographed.
Two others in the cast merit attention. Hank Worden does a nice job as a lost Blackfoot Indian who the trappers pick up. He may not be playing with a full deck, but he does come in handy. Jim Davis is one lean and mean villain as the company troubleshooter who wants to keep the independents out.
Arthur Hunnicutt got an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role, The Big Sky proved to be his career film. Unfortunately he lost to Anthony Quinn for Viva Zapata. Still Hunnicutt's folksy charm was always something to look forward to in any film he was ever in.
The Big Sky is one of the best films ever done about the mountain man era of the American frontier. If they'd only spent for color.
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