Big Jack (1949)

86 mins | Comedy-drama | 29 April 1949

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HISTORY

Working titles for this film were Big Harp , Big Jack Horner and The Great Harp . This was the last picture of actor Wallace Beery, who died of heart failure on 15 Apr 1949. The sixty-year-old Beery had been under contract to M-G-M for nineteen years. According to an Aug 1948 LAT article, the story was "written originally by James Thomas Flexner," but his contribution to the released film has not been confirmed. A Feb 1948 LAT article indicates that Spencer Tracy was set for role played by Richard Conte, and that Robert Taylor and Van Johnson were considered for the part played by ... More Less

Working titles for this film were Big Harp , Big Jack Horner and The Great Harp . This was the last picture of actor Wallace Beery, who died of heart failure on 15 Apr 1949. The sixty-year-old Beery had been under contract to M-G-M for nineteen years. According to an Aug 1948 LAT article, the story was "written originally by James Thomas Flexner," but his contribution to the released film has not been confirmed. A Feb 1948 LAT article indicates that Spencer Tracy was set for role played by Richard Conte, and that Robert Taylor and Van Johnson were considered for the part played by Beery. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
9 Apr 1949.
---
Daily Variety
8 Apr 49
p. 3.
Film Daily
12 Apr 49
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 48
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Oct 48
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Apr 49
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
18 Feb 1948.
---
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 1948.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
9 Apr 49
p. 4566.
New York Times
23 May 49
p. 27.
Variety
13 Apr 49
p. 11.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Assoc
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Mus score
Mus cond
SOUND
Rec dir
MAKEUP
Hair styles des by
Makeup created by
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Great Harp
Big Harp
Big Jack Horner
Release Date:
29 April 1949
Production Date:
mid September--mid October 1948
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
24 February 1949
Copyright Number:
LP2175
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
86
Length(in feet):
7,630
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
PCA No:
13508
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In 1802, in the backwoods of Maryland and Virginia, young physician Dr. Alexander Meade is being hanged for grave-robbing, a practice necessary for his medical experiments, when members of a notorious band of thieves save him from death and deliver him to their chief, Big Jack Horner. Although Big Jack is feared by all who know of his reputation, a glimpse of his generosity shows through his rough-hewn exterior after Meade successfully patches up his wounded leg. As a token of his appreciation, Big Jack offers Meade an antique timepiece, but the doctor refuses, asking only to be permitted to do his work and to have his books returned to him. Eager to please Meade, Big Jack goes to Marlborough County and engages the sheriff in a gunfight to gain possession of the doctor's seized belongings. Later, Big Jack presents Meade with a pretty young woman named Patricia Mahoney, who was taken by Big Jack against her will to be Meade's bride. Patricia, however, thinks that Meade had requested their arranged coupling and shows contempt for him when they meet. Meanwhile, Valentine, one of Big Jack's men, spreads the news about Meade's crimes. Big Jack rises to Meade's defense, however, explaining that the only difference between their profession and his is that they "rob the living and he robs the dead." Big Jack continues to insist that Meade stay by his side, and now that Big Jack knows that he can repay his debt to Meade by furnishing him with dead bodies on which to experiment, he considers killing the sickly men in his gang in the name of science. Meade, ... +


In 1802, in the backwoods of Maryland and Virginia, young physician Dr. Alexander Meade is being hanged for grave-robbing, a practice necessary for his medical experiments, when members of a notorious band of thieves save him from death and deliver him to their chief, Big Jack Horner. Although Big Jack is feared by all who know of his reputation, a glimpse of his generosity shows through his rough-hewn exterior after Meade successfully patches up his wounded leg. As a token of his appreciation, Big Jack offers Meade an antique timepiece, but the doctor refuses, asking only to be permitted to do his work and to have his books returned to him. Eager to please Meade, Big Jack goes to Marlborough County and engages the sheriff in a gunfight to gain possession of the doctor's seized belongings. Later, Big Jack presents Meade with a pretty young woman named Patricia Mahoney, who was taken by Big Jack against her will to be Meade's bride. Patricia, however, thinks that Meade had requested their arranged coupling and shows contempt for him when they meet. Meanwhile, Valentine, one of Big Jack's men, spreads the news about Meade's crimes. Big Jack rises to Meade's defense, however, explaining that the only difference between their profession and his is that they "rob the living and he robs the dead." Big Jack continues to insist that Meade stay by his side, and now that Big Jack knows that he can repay his debt to Meade by furnishing him with dead bodies on which to experiment, he considers killing the sickly men in his gang in the name of science. Meade, fearing Big Jack's overzealous approach, insists that the corpses he work on be those of men who died from natural causes. One evening, Meade escapes with Patricia and returns her to her home in Montaville. When Meade realizes that he has fallen in love with Patricia, he decides to stay in Montaville and set up a practice. Big Jack, meanwhile, has become distraught since his pal Meade escaped, and vows to find him and bring him back. Disguised in clothing stolen from a couple they pass in a stagecoach, Big Jack and his wife, Flapjack Kate, make haste for Montaville. There a gun battle between Big Jack's men and half the town ensues when Meade orders Big Jack to leave. Meade is taken by force to Big Jack's camp, where he demands that Big Jack return the money he stole from the Montaville bank. Big Jack initially rejects Meade's demand, but after Flapjack Kate helps Meade escape, he rethinks the method he is using to win Meade's friendship and returns the money to the bank and makes amends with Meade. Later, while Meade undertakes a delicate abdominal operation on Patricia's ailing sister Sarah, Patricia's father, the Mayor of Montaville, leads a posse to drive the grave-robbing doctor out of town. As Meade races against time to save Sarah's life and his own, Big Jack arrives with his men and succeeds in keeping the posse from storming Sarah's house. However, when the men in the posse mistakenly think that the operation has failed, they engage Big Jack and his men in a gunfight. Big Jack is mortally wounded in the battle, but before he dies he presents Meade with a token of his friendship: the timepiece the doctor had initially refused to accept when he successfully operated on his wounded leg. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.