When his cattle drivers abandon him for the gold fields, rancher Wil Andersen is forced to take on a collection of young boys as his drivers in order to get his herd to market in time to ... See full summary »
A naive couple and a child arrive to the town on the way to San Antonio, Texas to buy a farm there. There is a poker game between the richest men in the region. The man cannot resist it and though he is a very bad poker player, enters the game betting all the money of his family. In the climax of the game he suffers a heart-attack. His wife then takes his place in the table. That's the only way of recovering their savings. But there is a little problem. Can anybody explain her how to play poker? Written by
Miguel A. Andrade <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One can make a case that Henry Fonda appeared in many westerns that were dramatic - mostly directed by John Ford. FORT APACHE, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, and DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK come to mind. One can add JESSE JAMES and THE RETURN OF FRANK JAMES and WARLOCK to this list too. But towards the end of his career he also did two comedies, one being a black comedy (THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN) and the other being this film, which is a very satisfactory straight comedy.
The story is about how three travelers from the east headed west land in a town where once every year a set of local heavy hitters (Jason Robards, Robert Middleton, John Qualen, Charles Bickford, and Kevin McCarthy) hold a really big poker game with a big pot for the victor. It's actually limited to these five men, but Fonda, who has a small cash fund for himself and his family, shows interest. He manages to get himself into the game - much to the distress of his wife (Joanne Woodward) and their son (Jean-Michel Michenaud). Fonda loses hand after hand, despite occasionally coming close to a decent hand of cards. Then, when he's out of money, he tries to raise money somehow. He claims he can't get out of the game - especially the next hand. He insists he has a brilliant poker hand! He becomes so insistent that he collapses. The local doctor (Burgess Meredith) says it's a mild heart attack. The others figure that it means the end - but Woodward insists that she have an opportunity to continue playing in order to try to win the family money back!
The five big hitters can't believe this, and struggle to restrain themselves from reminding her that she is not supposed to be in a big gambling game at all. But she is insistent. Fine, they insist on her ante - ing up. So...she decides to go for a loan to the local banker (Paul Ford). And I will leave the story at that point.
A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY is a western, and a comedy. It is also one of the handful of good movies (THE CINCINATTI KID is another) dealing seriously with card playing. The resolution of this clever comedy is a joy, and I recommend catching it when you can.
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