The Big Trail (1930)

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  • Nice write up/review of the movie!!

    One thing that strikes me about that movie, is how raw Duke seemed in that picture. Raw talent. I haven't watch it in a while, might be time to pull it back out and get some popcorn.

    Thank you, Mr. Kevin. I'm glad you liked it. Most of my movie reviews take a while to gather the information and write, but I liked that one so much that I watched in three times in two days and wrote the review the second evening! Definitely a favorite and one I will be adding to my DVD collection!

  • Happy New Years !! Hope your getting some rest from the holiday parties, and travel. It's now time for our first Duke Monthly Movie Watch (DMMW).

    Here is the basics, each month on the first of each month we'll post a new Duke Wayne movie in this forum for all of us to watch. The hope is that you'll have a chance to sit down and watch the chosen movie within the first week or two of the month and share your thoughts, or insights of that movie here in this thread. I'm hoping that doing this will generate greater appreciation for the movie of the month.

    I realize that many of the movies will not be available online to watch via the forum, so many of the movies will have to be watched either by DVD that you already own OR you can choose to rent the movie online from Amazon streaming service or some other online movie streaming service.

    To start we have The Big Trail available from YouTube and it can be watched from the site below.

    A200137.jpgDMMW #1 The Big Trail (1930)


    Check out the Duke Movie Discussion page at: The Big Trail (1930)

  • This movie was on a DVD set I recently purchased . We watched it several days ago. I don't remember ever seeing it before. It was an eye-opening experience, for sure. JW became the character he was playing. I found the movie very interesting, and revealing at the same time. Who amongst us, at one time or another , has not wanted something so badly , we would become hysterical if anything came between us and the object of our passion? To the point of killing , well, that's another matter. Nonetheless, it was well played , I liked the ending, and would rate it as a top notch first effort , especially for a first time in a lead role.

  • Great underrated and underestimated movie at the time of release.
    A box office flop but at least introduced us to Duke Wayne as we know him.

    Fantastic scenes of the wagons on the move, and the spectacular backdrops
    of the hazardous trek through mountains and rivers.

    Very dated now of course and it is amusing, to see the big fella dashing and scampering
    around with a squeaky voice!!

    Hammy theatrical stage acting on the big screen, at its best, typical of the era.

    Watch carefully Ward Bond as at times, he appears to lip sync everyone else's parts

    It's a great film.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • I watched “The Big Trail” last night; and as stated in a previous comment, this is a very underrated movie! This movie, for me, goes right alongside the later Duke Classics, or at least I have a new appreciation of it!

    The good points about the movie:

    Director Raoul Walsh did a great job of painting an authentic picture of “The Oregon Trail”; he didn’t white-wash it! He showed the brutality of the wagon train life; from crossing the canyons and cliffs, crossing the desert, the aftermath of the Indian attack. These were all tough scenes!

    The big picture captures all of the things that the pioneers had to go through just to prepare for the wagon train – Walsh did a great job of showing all of that! It’s almost as if he slipped back in time and documented an actual wagon train! Good detail work! I think even to this day it’s the most authentic depiction of a wagon train that you can see in the movies!

    Years ago, when this movie first became available to us again, I use to think it just “plodded along”, but now when I watch it, I’m watching every scene; not just the main characters in the foreground, but all of the things going on in the background as well! I always see something I’ve missed before, like one scene where bad-guy Lopez is eating, and a dog comes along and steals his food! That’s not really in the background but I’ve never noticed that before! There’s something happening in every part of the screen!

    And then when you add in all the different locations from California, to Utah, Wyoming, The Grand Canyon, etc., plus the different takes for the different formats and different language versions; making this movie took a lot of hard work!

    Then of course, there’s the melodramatic part of it; bad guys commit murder, hero tracks them down and finds love along the way! That mixture of realism and romanticism; well it’s good story-telling! Got to have it!

    As far as the flaws of the movie; well I don’t have much to say about that! I’m not a nitpicker! The acting style is the same acting style you see in all of the early talkies; dated and corny! But that just adds to the fun of it. The comic relief back then was VERY corny and sometimes a little annoying; the vaudevillian comic El Brendel was no exception! The main bad-guy, Flack (Tyrone Power, Sr.), is probably the corniest character of all; he’s right out of a silent movie melodrama (they were still making a few of these at this time)! Someone at another sight compared him to Yosemite Sam! Now, every time I watch the movie, I see Yosemite Sam! (Hey, it makes me laugh; just another little bit of fun I find in this movie!)

    Then of course, this is where Duke Morrison became John Wayne! If at times he seems like a 23-year-old kid who had never starred as the lead in a major movie before, it’s because he was a 23-year-old kid who had never starred as the lead in major movie before! Awkward at times, but no worse than other leading men of the era. As an actor, yeah, he had a long way to go, but, that natural charisma and toughness was there even at that early stage! In the scene at “the last outpost” where he defies Flack, or every time he quietly challenges the three bad-guys, or when he gives the “When you stop fighting, that’s death” speech, that’ s pure John Wayne – he was giving us a glimpse ofthings to come!

    A couple of other things; I have the Blu-ray with both the 70mm Widescreen version and the Standard Version; of course, I watch the wide-screen version! It just looks better! But, I did re-watch the Indian Attack Scene in the Standard version; in that version, you see more of The Duke in that scene, while in the wide-screen version, because of the different angles, he gets lost in the crowd!

    A couple of “bloopers” that made me laugh; It’s already been mentioned that Ward Bond was mouthing the dialog of the other actors –that’s always funny! Another thing I noticed this time; when you watch the movie again, and in the scene where the character Zeke is using sign languageto talk to the Pawnee, see if at one point he doesn’t nonchalantly flip the bird!

    This was a good choice for movie discussions! Maybe it was never one of my favorite John Wayne movies, but I think it’s working its way up the list!

    Edited 5 times, last by ZS_Maverick: For some reason, when I copied and pasted from the word document, many of the words ran together! Just trying to fix that! ().

  • Thanks @ZS_Maverick for your detailed breakout on the movie. I must say at times it's a slow movie and could have been helped with tighter edits and it is interesting to see Ward Bond and others knowing now how careers cross paths later.

    I give The Big Trail a C+

  • This movie is history. It takes us back to 1930 when it is made. Also back to the late 1800's showing the moving to the west. I watched part of it, and all of your posts have information that is making it more interesting.
    This was Duke's first starring role, right? Just think how hard it was to make this movie with all of these people. A great job by Raoul Walsh as director.
    I love the feeling of the history of it all. Will watch the rest later this week.

    "A people that values their Privileges above it's Principles. Soon looses both." Dwight Eisenhower

  • I'm watching this tonight. I was flat busy up to the hilt last week and over the weekend to get to it. I've never seen this so I'll jump into this conversation shortly. My apologies for being slow...Ahem... Let me walk that back. Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness. ;)

  • Kevin

    Opened the thread.
  • Not to my knowledge. I'm glad they left it as it was filmed.


    Seeing the colourised images on the DVD cover I thought the film would look better in colour.

    The first time I saw "Red River" on TV it was in colour. When I saw it again a year later I was very disappointed to find it was in black and white.