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The Big Sky (1952)

Approved | | Drama, Western | 27 November 1952 (Italy)
The success of the journey focuses on keeping the Indian girl alive as well as themselves to complete trade with the Blackfeet.


Howard Hawks


Dudley Nichols (screenplay), A.B. Guthrie Jr. (novel)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Kirk Douglas ... Jim Deakins
Dewey Martin ... Boone Caudill
Elizabeth Threatt ... Teal Eye
Arthur Hunnicutt ... Zeb Calloway
Buddy Baer ... Romaine
Steven Geray ... 'Frenchy' Jourdonnais
Henri Letondal Henri Letondal ... La Badie
Hank Worden ... Poordevil
Jim Davis ... Streak


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 Alfred Jingle

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Mighty drama of the adventure that battered down the barriers to the great Northwest! (original poster) See more »


Drama | Western


Approved | See all certifications »





English | French

Release Date:

27 November 1952 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Howard Hawks' The Big Sky See more »

Filming Locations:

Snake River, Wyoming, USA See more »


Box Office


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

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (edited)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Montgomery Clift was offered the role of "Boone Caudill", but turned it down. It was eventually given to Dewey Martin. See more »


When Jim dances with the tavern girl, he holds his rifle butt up, but in the very next shot at the bar, he is holding the rifle muzzle up. See more »


Zeb Calloway: Boone, this is Teal's father, Chief Red Horse. Chief Red Horse wants to see you on account he wants to know how much you're gonna pay for his daughter.
Boone Cardell: Pay for Teal?
Zeb Calloway: You married her, didn't ya? He gets paid.
Boone Cardell: Well, I reckon that's the custom.
Zeb Calloway: Well, yes and no. In this particular case, it's yes.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »


Referenced in Pour la peau d'un flic (1981) See more »


Brandy Leave Me Alone
Written by Josef Marais
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Big Sky, Big Buddies.
20 October 2010 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The Big Sky is directed by Howard Hawks and adapted by Dudley Nichols from the novel of the same name written by A.B. Guthrie Jr. It stars Kirk Douglas, Dewey Martin, Elizabeth Threatt & Arthur Hunnicutt. Dimitri Tiomkin scores the music and Russell Harlan photographs on location at Grand Teton National Park & Jackson Hole in Wyoming.

1832 and Jim Deakins (Douglas) & Boone Caudill (Martin) meet by chance out in the wilderness. Quickly bonding they travel to St Louis together to seek out Boone's Uncle Zeb (Hunnicutt). After finding him via a bar room brawl, the two men agree to join Zeb in a venture up the Missouri river to trade fur with the unpredictable Blackfoot Indians; their insurance against attack by the Blackfoot coming courtesy of Teal Eye (Threatt), a beautiful Blackfoot princess kidnapped years previously and now being returned home. Along the way the party have to battle nature, the Indian factions and also the Missouri Company out to topple their enterprise for fear of losing their monopoly on trade. Perhaps worse still is that the new found friendship between Boone & Jim will be tested by their mutual attraction to Teal Eye?

Given the credentials that come with The Big Sky, it's a little surprising that it's not more well known. Hawks, Douglas and Tiomkin speak for themselves, while Guthrie wrote the script for Shane and Nichols wrote the screenplay for John Ford's 1939 pulse raiser, Stagecoach. Add in that Hunnicutt and Harlan were Academy Award nominated for Best Support Actor and Cinematography respectively, well you have a fine bunch of professionals involved with this movie. So why so ignored or forgotten? The starting point should be with Hawks himself, who openly had issues with the finished product. Originally the film was a huge 140 minutes long and was doing decent business at the box office. But the studio execs had it cut down to 122 minutes so as to fit one more screening in during the day. The film promptly flopped and was left for dead by director and studio. Hawks was also never fully behind Douglas in the role of Deakins, he had wanted Gary Cooper or John Wayne. It seems in the end that Hawks just walked away after release and lost faith in promoting it. Western fans were grateful that the experience didn't make him turn his back on the genre, tho, for he delivered Rio Bravo 7 years later.

Having not seen the full uncut version of the film, I personally have to say that the 122 minute version viewed was pretty uneven and lacking a certain narrative spark to make it fully work. It's even episodic for the most part. What isn't in doubt is that visually it's one of Hawks' most rewarding pictures, with Harlan's photography sumptuous and period perfecto. Douglas is spirited and plays the black humour within quite nicely, while Martin is good foil for Douglas' beaming machismo, even if he's just a little too animated at times. Threatt doesn't have to do anything other than smile and look pretty, while Hank Worden shows up to neatly play a buffoon Indian called Poordevil! Undoubtedly the star of the show is Hunnicutt (who also narrates), tucking into a boozy, grizzled, teller of tall tales character, Hunnicutt lifts the film on the frequent occasions it threatens to sag beyond repair.

With the visuals and enjoyable Hawksian take on "man love" the film is worth the time of any Western fan. While the efforts to resist racism are honourable and neatly played. But in the end Hawks' frustration is justified, for it feels like a patched together adventure piece. And certainly not one that makes you think it's directed by the man who made Red River. I wouldn't hesitate to watch the full 140 minute cut of the film, but until then it will be some time before I can see myself watching this version again. 6/10

Footnote: Some Region 2 DVD's exist of the full cut, where the cut scenes have been spliced back in from a 16mm print. I'm led to believe that the quality is far from great. For British readers, the 122 minute cut shows up once in a blue moon on TV, where the BBC have the rights so at least it is advertisement free. As yet there is still no Region 1 release for the film.

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