THE BIG TRAIL

(1930)
With John Wayne, Marguerite Churchill, El Brendel, Tully Marshall, Tyrone Power, Sr.
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

This town isn't big enough for both of these hats!     It's a bit creaky around the wagon wheels by today's standards, but THE BIG TRAIL was an enormously influential film in the history of Westerns, as well as one of the most important of the early talkies.  It was also the first film to be produced in a widescreen format, its 70mm size taking full advantage of the scenic grandeur.  (Although the widescreen version was found in the 1990s after having been lost for years, the standard Academy Ratio version of the film is the only one available on DVD.)  An episodic film concerning the migration of wagon trains west, THE BIG TRAIL is most notable for its realistic and detailed portrayal of the grim hardships faced by the travelers.  It was intended to be a star-making vehicle for the young John Wayne, but the film performed poorly at the box office, only to be rediscovered by later generations.  Wayne would toil in b-grade Westerns throughout the 1930s, finally achieving front-line stardom in 1939 with John Ford's STAGECOACH.  - JL

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