The Big Trail (1930)

Passed   |    |  Adventure, Romance, Western


The Big Trail (1930) Poster

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


7.2/10
3,327

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Awards

1 win.

Reviews & Commentary

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User Reviews


18 June 2006 | bkoganbing
7
| Trailblazing,.....sort of
John Wayne is one of the few players in film history to have failed at his first big break and then succeed on the second time around. Of course everyone knows the second time was the classic Stagecoach with John Ford directing.

But we're here to talk about The Big Trail. John Ford's fellow director Raoul Walsh spotted this tall kid on the set of one of Ford's films and thought he had potential. He wanted to make him the lead in a big budget western that Fox was planning to do. The film as planned would be an homage to the famous classic silent western The Covered Wagon.

In watching The Big Trail I was struck by how similar Wayne's character of Breck Coleman here is to the Ringo Kid in Stagecoach. Both characters were likable young cowpokes, but both were also on a mission of vengeance. And of course both films were done on location and show the expense in making them. No studio product here with a backlot western set.

I also don't think that it was an accident that Wayne got this break at the beginning of the sound era. Raoul Walsh, I'm guessing looked around Hollywood and probably didn't think a whole lot of movie cowboys would have staying power in sound. That's something else Walsh spotted in Wayne.

According to what I've read The Big Trail flopped because after spending all that money to make the film in an early wide screen process, some genius at Fox realized that their theaters weren't equipped with the wide screen to show it. And when the Great Depression hit there would be no money to widen those screens at Fox movie houses. So The Big Trail got a limited release, even in what we would call a formatted version, and lost money big for Fox films.

Marguerite Churchill is fine as the crinoline heroine who Duke wins, loses and wins again from Ian Keith. Keith, Charles Stevens and F. Tyrone Power are the trio of villains Wayne has to deal with.

F. Tyrone Power is the father of the famous movie legend Tyrone Power. He was a big burly man with a grand background in classic roles on screen and on stage. I wouldn't be surprised if his son who would have been 15 at the time might not have been hanging around the set.

Also look for Ward Bond though you might have trouble spotting him under a big bushy beard.

Watching The Big Trail now it is interesting to speculate where John Wayne's career might have gone if The Big Trail had been a big hit.

Critic Reviews



Did You Know?

Trivia

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.


Quotes

Caption: Prairie schooners rolling west, praying for peace - but ready for battle.


Goofs

(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.


Crazy Credits

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.


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).


Soundtracks

When It's Harvest Time in Peaceful Valley
(1930) (uncredited)
Music and Lyrics by
Robert Martin and Raymond McKee

Storyline

Plot Summary


Genres

Adventure | Romance | Western

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