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The Big Trail (1930)

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


Raoul Walsh, Louis R. Loeffler (uncredited)


Hal G. Evarts (story)
1 win. See more awards »




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


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


The Most Important Picture Ever Produced See more »


Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


At the beginning of filming John Wayne became ill with dysentery and lost 20 lbs. See more »


(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 »


Marshal: Thorpe, why don't you get back on the Penzy Belle
[a riverboat]
Marshal: and make yourself scarce. If you're here when the boat pulls out, the boys will certainly lead your pony out from under ya.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film finishes with THE END of the BIG TRAIL See more »

Alternate Versions

Filmed in two versions simultaneously: widescreen process Grandeur in 70mm, and in standard 35mm. Some scenes were shot simultaneously in both formats; other scenes were shot twice, once for each format. The two versions are not identical in content - the 70mm version runs 125 minutes, while the 35mm version runs a shorter 108 minutes (but does contain some scenes not found in the longer widescreen version). See more »


Featured in 20th Century-Fox: The First 50 Years (1997) See more »


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

User Reviews

What if someone made a western 20 years ahead of its time and nobody came?,
4 July 2015 | by AlsExGalSee all my reviews

By 1930, Fox had already conquered making sound movies outdoors due to being an early adopter of sound on film versus sound on disc. Next they tried their hand at widescreen films. Known as 70mm Grandeur, Fox shot three films in this process, this film and two musicals - The Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 and Happy Days (1929). The process was successful, the business end of their widescreen process was not. Due to the Great Depression, theaters could not afford to install the equipment necessary to show films in the Grandeur process. It's interesting to note that if sound itself had come into feature films in 1929 rather than 1927, that silent films would probably have been the majority of films made until 1940 for this same reason.

The Big Trail itself is a wonderfully modern-seeming western compared to other entries of the early sound era. It has an air of authenticity about it, as there is almost a documentary feel of the film in its depiction of harsh life on the Oregon Trail. Finally, there is the reason most people view this film - the birth of John Wayne's cowboy persona, not a cartoon character with either a black or white hat as many actors in the early westerns were, but a character of flesh and blood whose motivations you could understand and empathize with. Also note the presence of Ward Bond in a supporting role who, along with John Wayne, was a staple of the later John Ford westerns.

Despite its technical beauty and the presence of John Wayne, this film flopped at the box office. John Wayne went back into obscurity and did not emerge again until nine years later in "Stagecoach", where he played a part very similar to the one he plays here.

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Release Date:

1 November 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Raoul Walsh's The Big Trail See more »


Box Office


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

Company Credits

Production Co:

Fox Film Corporation See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (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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