7.2/10
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58 user 41 critic

The Big Trail (1930)

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

Directors:

Raoul Walsh, Louis R. Loeffler (uncredited)

Writer:

Hal G. Evarts (story)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Wayne ... Breck Coleman
Marguerite Churchill ... Ruth Cameron
El Brendel ... Gus
Tully Marshall ... Zeke
Tyrone Power Sr. ... Red Flack (as Tyrone Power)
David Rollins ... Dave Cameron
Frederick Burton ... Pa Bascom
Ian Keith ... Bill Thorpe
Charles Stevens ... Lopez
Louise Carver ... Gus's mother-in-law
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Storyline

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 <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Most Important Picture Ever Produced See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

1 November 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print) | (TCM print) | (35 mm)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to the Nov. 12, 1930, issue of the Idaho Falls Post, this movie was once set to be titled "The Oregon Trail". The change, as stated, was made in response to the requests from nearby residents of Jackson, WY, where the bulk of the movie was filmed. See more »

Goofs

(at around 10 mins) Breck Coleman leans his rifle against the water pump, then leaves it there and goes into the house. Not something a 'real' frontiersman would do. See more »

Quotes

Gussie's Mother-in-Law: I was with your wife, Sarah, and she gave birth to twins.
Gussie: Twins? Are they both mine?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: DEDICATED- To the men and women who planted civilization in the wilderness and courage in the blood of their children.

Gathered from the north, the south, and the east, they assemble on the bank of the Mississippi for the conquest of the west. See more »

Connections

Alternate-language version of La gran jornada (1931) See more »

Soundtracks

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

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User Reviews

Pioneer Filmmaking Effort
12 April 2002 | by harry-76See all my reviews

Only three years after Able Gance's "Napoleon," was released in the revolutionary Spherical (1:33:1) and Triptych (4:00:1 aspect ratio) process, Raoul Walsh's "The Big Trail" hit the market, shot in then-experimental "Fox Grandeur 70 mm."

That alone makes "The Big Trail" a technically significant film. Word has it that it failed economically, in part due to only two U.S. theatres presenting its original format (NYC's Roxy and LA's Grauman's Chinese Theatres). The rest of the country's movie houses balked at the cost of the extra equipment necessary, after having recently converted to sound. (Does this seem reminiscent of the "'Star Wars' digital satellite controversy" of 2002?)

Finding a VHS or DVD widescreen print of "The Big Trail" is difficult. It's been shown on tv and in special movie houses that way on occasion. Generally, though, one gets a standard screen version, which fails to capture the eye-popping 70 mm. aspect ratio of the original.

The production's statistics are impressive--a 347 cast/crew, covering 7 states in 10 weeks, replete with wagons, cattle, oxen, mules, horses, et al., retracing the first settler's trek over the Oregon trail one hundred years earlier.

Twenty year old Marion Morrison was renamed John Wayne and teamed with nineteen year old Broadway actress Margurite Churchill for a hoped-for "hot screen combination." The two worked efficiently, with Wayne's untrained, natural talent in evidence.

The production looks very laborious and challenging--yet appropriate to the conditions of those early pioneers. European "superiority" vs. Native American "savagery" is expressed in the script--establishing a skewed perspective for numerous films to follow. Likewise, macho "frontier justice" is forcefully dramatized--a model for many later western efforts.

"The Big Trail," while a technical landmark, also presents a Hollywoodized depiction of American history. For a more complete understanding of this period and these events, one is prone to engage in more committed and comprehensive research.


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