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
Kirk Douglas and Elizabeth Threatt reportedly were romantically involved during filming. See more »
As Jim and Boone approach St. Louis, Zeb, narrating, says they saw the town across the Missouri River. St. Louis is on the Mississippi River, and Jim and Boone, coming from Kentucky, would have seen it directly from the east side of that river. See more »
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 »
Very Authentic Fur Trader Adventure; Not Fast-Paced But Engrossing
This feature is an exercise in pure filmic story-telling for Howard Hawks; and the talented veteran director appears to enjoys this unusual freedom from having to worry about indoor sets, intricate lighting setups and costume designs (although Dorthy Jeakins' costumes are wonderful). Here he gets to realize the best elements of A.B. Guthrie's tough novel of the early West, "The Big Sky". Bringing to life the major characters of this exciting adventure are Kirk Douglas as happy-go-lucky Jim Deakins, Dewey Martin, adequate as Boone Caudill, Arthur Hunnicut in award-winning form as Uncle Zeb, Jim Davis as Streak, Steven Geray lovable as Frenchie, owner of the riverboat, the Mandan, Hank Worden as Poor Devil, and Elizabeth Threatt as Teal Eye, the Amerind girl Geray is returning so they can open fur trade with the proud and wary Blackfleet chiefs. The film tends to be a bit leisurely in its development, but the action sequences are unusually exciting, and the characters are very believable at every moment. The cinematography by Russell Harlan and the music by Dimitri Tiomkin are very fine indeed. What propels the first portion of the film narrated Hunnicutt, is developing friendship between Jim Deakins and enigmatic runaway youth Boone; then they find Uncle Zeb in a St. Louis jail and are freed to join a dangerous very-early voyage up the Missouri River. The battle between their group and deadly agents of "The Company", led by Davis, are the major elements in the remainder of this often-rough, humorous and very moving story. It would be hard to credit Hawks enough for all the good things that happen in this film; he even finds a way to enliven the story by playing up the differences between Martin and Threatt one of h signature male-female disagreements. Douglas and the other two form an interesting love triangle; and the climax that requires Martin to decide whether he is going to turn down what Douglas would give anything he has to obtain is very satisfying to my way of thinking. This a film that is atmospheric, always interesting, and a first-rate look at the old West as it was before it was changed forever. The characters' comments on the ant-hill aspects of overcrowded St. Louis, the jumping-off-place to the west, population 12,000, tell us that we are in a different, simpler and cleaner era of civilization. This is one of the best films about the era of the fur trappers and their ways and trade ever produced in every way.
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