So Big (1953)

101 or 104 mins | Drama | 31 October 1953

Director:

Robert Wise

Writer:

John Twist

Producer:

Henry Blanke

Cinematographer:

Ellsworth Fredricks

Editor:

Thomas Reilly

Production Designer:

John Beckman

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

This was the third film based on Edna Ferber's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The first was a 1924 film starring Colleen Moore, and the second was a Warner Bros.' 1932 version directed by William Wellman and featuring Barbara Stanwyck as "Selina" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 and 1931-40 ). According to a modern source, Warner Bros.' misleading ad campaign for So Big , which suggested that the title referred to the strapping farmer played by Sterling Hayden ("He stood there So Big...she was ready to forget she'd ever been a lady"), touched off a storm of protest and the studio became the target of a mail campaign to pull the ads.
       Although his appearance has not been confirmed, a Mar 1953 HR news item adds Paul Grainger to the cast. According to a Mar 1953 HR news item, Richard Beymer was treated for an appendectomy during production. A Feb 1953 HR news item reported that portions of the film were shot on location at Santa Ana and Newport Beach, CA. Excerpts from the film were aired on Lux Video Theatre on 5 Nov 1953, during which Martha Hyer made a guest appearance. Lux Video Theatre aired an adaptation of the film on 21 Sep 1954, starring Ida Lupino as "Selina Peake DeJong" and Robert Stack as "Pervus DeJong" and "Dirk DeJong." According to Oct 1953 HR news items, So Big was promoted at the Indiana State Teachers Convention and received an award of merit from the Southern California Motion Picture Council. ... More Less

This was the third film based on Edna Ferber's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The first was a 1924 film starring Colleen Moore, and the second was a Warner Bros.' 1932 version directed by William Wellman and featuring Barbara Stanwyck as "Selina" (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 and 1931-40 ). According to a modern source, Warner Bros.' misleading ad campaign for So Big , which suggested that the title referred to the strapping farmer played by Sterling Hayden ("He stood there So Big...she was ready to forget she'd ever been a lady"), touched off a storm of protest and the studio became the target of a mail campaign to pull the ads.
       Although his appearance has not been confirmed, a Mar 1953 HR news item adds Paul Grainger to the cast. According to a Mar 1953 HR news item, Richard Beymer was treated for an appendectomy during production. A Feb 1953 HR news item reported that portions of the film were shot on location at Santa Ana and Newport Beach, CA. Excerpts from the film were aired on Lux Video Theatre on 5 Nov 1953, during which Martha Hyer made a guest appearance. Lux Video Theatre aired an adaptation of the film on 21 Sep 1954, starring Ida Lupino as "Selina Peake DeJong" and Robert Stack as "Pervus DeJong" and "Dirk DeJong." According to Oct 1953 HR news items, So Big was promoted at the Indiana State Teachers Convention and received an award of merit from the Southern California Motion Picture Council. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
10 Oct 1953.
---
Daily Variety
30 Sep 53
p. 3.
Film Daily
6 Oct 53
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
3 Oct 53
p. 159.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 1953
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1953
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 53
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Mar 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Mar 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Apr 53
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Sep 53
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1953
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Oct 1953.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1953
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Dec 1953
p. 11.
Los Angeles Herald Express
4 Nov 53
p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
4 Nov 1953.
---
Motion Picture Daily
1 Oct 1953.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
3 Oct 53
p. 2013.
New York Times
22 Oct 53
p. 34.
Newsweek
9 Nov 1953.
---
Variety
30 Sep 53
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Bob Stephenson
Billy Vincent
Dan Dowling
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Best boy
Gaffer
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Props
Asst props
MUSIC
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel So Big by Edna Ferber (Garden City, NY, 1924).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
31 October 1953
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 29 December 1953
Production Date:
16 February--1 April 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
4 November 1954
Copyright Number:
LP4107
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
101 or 104
Length(in feet):
9,154
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16405
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the late 1890s, Selina Peake, a student at a posh boarding school, is informed of the death of her wealthy father, who has left her penniless as a result of a botched business deal. Since the proud Selina refuses all offers of charity, August Hempel, the kindly father of Selina's best friend, Julie, obtains a teaching position for Selina in New Holland, a tiny Dutch farming community outside Chicago which has remained virtually unchanged for seventy-five years. In New Holland, Selina takes a room in the home of Klaas Pool, a crude farmer who scoffs at Selina's idealism and eye for beauty, and his overworked and miserable wife Maartje. Selina finds a kindred soul in Klaas and Maartje's son Roelf, a bright, but troubled adolescent who is unable to attend school because he must work on the farm. After discovering that Roelf has a talent for music, Selina gives him nightly piano lessons and encourages his artistic leanings, gradually leading him away from juvenile delinquency. At a charity auction, Selina catches the eye of the town's most eligible bachelor, Pervus DeJong, and later accepts his proposal of marriage. Roelf is devastated to learn that Selina, who represents to him the beauty of the world outside his hated hometown, is to marry a lowly truck farmer. However, Selina consoles him by explaining that she needs both "emeralds" and "wheat" in her life, emeralds being those people, like Roelf, who appreciate and create beauty, and wheat, those who work the land, providing the necessities of life. Selina settles into the laborious routine of a farmer's wife and gives birth to a son Dirk, who, as ... +


In the late 1890s, Selina Peake, a student at a posh boarding school, is informed of the death of her wealthy father, who has left her penniless as a result of a botched business deal. Since the proud Selina refuses all offers of charity, August Hempel, the kindly father of Selina's best friend, Julie, obtains a teaching position for Selina in New Holland, a tiny Dutch farming community outside Chicago which has remained virtually unchanged for seventy-five years. In New Holland, Selina takes a room in the home of Klaas Pool, a crude farmer who scoffs at Selina's idealism and eye for beauty, and his overworked and miserable wife Maartje. Selina finds a kindred soul in Klaas and Maartje's son Roelf, a bright, but troubled adolescent who is unable to attend school because he must work on the farm. After discovering that Roelf has a talent for music, Selina gives him nightly piano lessons and encourages his artistic leanings, gradually leading him away from juvenile delinquency. At a charity auction, Selina catches the eye of the town's most eligible bachelor, Pervus DeJong, and later accepts his proposal of marriage. Roelf is devastated to learn that Selina, who represents to him the beauty of the world outside his hated hometown, is to marry a lowly truck farmer. However, Selina consoles him by explaining that she needs both "emeralds" and "wheat" in her life, emeralds being those people, like Roelf, who appreciate and create beauty, and wheat, those who work the land, providing the necessities of life. Selina settles into the laborious routine of a farmer's wife and gives birth to a son Dirk, who, as he grows, earns the nickname "So Big." Dirk soon displays signs of being an emerald in the rough, and although Pervus, who has never fully understood his wife, is mildly disapproving, Selina encourages her son's nascent artistic talent. Maartje dies and, shortly after, Klaas makes plans to wed the simpering Widow Paarlenberg. The grieving Roelf decides to leave New Holland forever and tearfully bids Selina goodbye. When Dirk is eight years old, Pervus dies from the strain of his hard work, and Selina, refusing offers of help from her neighbors, labors to keep the farm going on her own. Much to the shock of the denizens of conservative New Holland, Selina and Dirk travel unescorted to the Chicago Haymarket to sell their produce, but no one will buy from a woman. When all seems lost, Selina runs into her old friend Julie, now a divorced mother of two, and August, who offers to invest in Selina's proposal to grow exotic vegetables. Selina's "DeJong" asparagus is a huge success and, ten years later, she proudly sends Dirk off to college to study architecture. After college, Dirk begins work as a draughtsman in an architectural firm and maintains his involvement with his childhood sweetheart, Julie's spoiled daughter Paula. Paula, a manipulative social climber, pushes Dirk to earn more money and later convinces him to forgo his dream of becoming an architect in order to attain more immediate financial success. Dirk accepts a job in sales and promotion arranged for him by Paula, greatly disappointing Selina, who demonstrates her dismay by no longer referring to him as "So Big." Later, Dirk falls in love with talented artist Dallas O'Mara, who cares nothing for money and social status, and proposes marriage. Although she is fond of him, Dallas refuses, declaring that she could never marry a man whose hands are unscarred by real work. Roelf, now a renowned composer, has a triumphant return to Chicago, where he visits Dallas, an old friend from Paris. Accompanied by Dirk, Roelf takes Dallas to his reunion with Selina, and the two women, very much alike, become friends. After Roelf and Dallas leave, Dirk, fearing that he has lost both of the women he loves, expresses his dismay at how his life has turned out. However, Selina takes him in her arms and, calling him "So Big," reminds him that it is never too late to pursue his dream of creating beauty. +

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.