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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Incredibly, six different versions of this film were shot simultaneously: (1) a 70mm version in the Grandeur process for exhibition in the biggest movie palaces, (2) a standard 35mm version for general release, (3) a 35mm alternate French-language version La piste des géants (1931)', (4) a 35mm alternate Spanish-language version La gran jornada (1931), (5) a 35mm alternate German-language version Die große Fahrt (1931), and (6) a 35mm alternate Italian-language version Il grande sentiero (1931). The four alternate-language versions were shot with (mostly) different casts. 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 »
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 »
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 »
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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