Jack Crabb is 121 years old as the film begins. A collector of oral histories asks him about his past. He recounts being captured and raised by indians, becoming a gunslinger, marrying an indian, watching her killed by General George Armstrong Custer, and becoming a scout for him at Little Big Horn.Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Legendary Make-up Artist Dick Smith devised a latex face for old Crabb that allowed for the eyes to blink alongside Dustin Hoffman's own blinking, something revolutionary in the make-up field at the time. Smith was dismayed when he saw the film for the first time to see that none of the close-up cuts of Hoffman's face showed off this feature. See more »
George Armstrong Custer is shown wearing the two star rank insignia of a Major General, which was his brevet rank in the Civil War. But as a cavalry commander in the Indian Wars, he had reverted to his Regular Army rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and should been depicted wearing the silver oak leaves of that rank. See more »
I am, beyond a doubt, the last of the old-timers. My name is Jack Crabb. And I am the sole white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn, uh, uh, popularly known as Custer's Last Stand.
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My parents purchased a VHS copy of Little Big Man for me when I was 14 and, because it was a western, I didn't touch it for two years, in spite of their belief in its greatness. When I finally watched the film, I was astounded to find a film that was funny, angry, violent, and moving simultaneously. It turned out that my parents were, in fact, correct. Little Big Man was great.
I've gone back to the movie several times since that first viewing and it continues to entertain and affect; for me, a film that has emotional resonance well after the first viewing is rare and, though it does not always point to greatness, it often does.
Every element of the film is fantastic. The acting, by Hoffman and Dan George in particular, is amazing, as is Penn's direction. The story picaresque and always fascinating. There simply is no weak component to this movie.
I must also commend the film as a literary adaptation. I am not the most supportive critic of the Thomas Berger novel upon which the film is based. I find its thematics confused; it cannot decide whether or not it wants to revise western mythology or further it and, in that way, it fails for me. Calder Willingham's adaptation removes the ambivalence inherent in the novel and thereby writes one of the first and greatest revisionist Hollywood Westerns.
Little Big Man is a great movie, as I have said, and it deserves much more notoriety than it receives. This is, I fear, a film that too few people of my generation know. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it as an excellent and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours.
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