Little Big Man (1970)

GP | 150 mins | Western, Comedy-drama | 15 December 1970

Director:

Arthur Penn

Producer:

Stuart Millar

Cinematographer:

Harry Stradling, Jr.

Production Designer:

Dean Tavoularis

Production Company:

Hiller Productions-Stockbridge Productions
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HISTORY

Although a 4 Jun 1965 DV item reported that actor-filmmaker Tom Laughlin was interested in purchasing screen rights to Thomas Berger’s 1964 novel, Little Big Man, the property was picked up by producer-director Arthur Penn a few weeks later. The 14 Jul 1965 DV indicated that the deal originated at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), with an actor “like Steve McQueen” wanted for the leading role. On 27 Oct 1965, however, Var announced the joining of Penn with fellow producer Stuart Millar to form their own New York City-based company, Stockbridge Productions, where they could develop a screenplay. According to a 21 Dec 1969 NYT article, Penn and Millar returned to Calder Willingham’s script “off and on” over a period of several years before deciding to move ahead with production of Bonnie and Clyde (1967, see entry), starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. While a 10 Jan 1967 DV brief claimed the filmmakers considered working with Beatty again on Little Big Man, they ultimately reteamed with Dunaway, who filled the role of “Mrs. Pendrake.”
       The following year, items in the 17 Jun 1968 and 29 Jul 1968 DV reported that the production had secured financing from Cinema Center Films (CCF), with Dustin Hoffman signed to play “Jack Crabb.” According to news stories in the 22 Jan 1969 Var and 21 Feb 1969 NYT, Hoffman was able to accept the role after exercising an “out clause” in the contract for his current Broadway show, Jimmy Shine, which closed with his departure. A 10 Apr 1969 DV casting ... More Less

Although a 4 Jun 1965 DV item reported that actor-filmmaker Tom Laughlin was interested in purchasing screen rights to Thomas Berger’s 1964 novel, Little Big Man, the property was picked up by producer-director Arthur Penn a few weeks later. The 14 Jul 1965 DV indicated that the deal originated at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), with an actor “like Steve McQueen” wanted for the leading role. On 27 Oct 1965, however, Var announced the joining of Penn with fellow producer Stuart Millar to form their own New York City-based company, Stockbridge Productions, where they could develop a screenplay. According to a 21 Dec 1969 NYT article, Penn and Millar returned to Calder Willingham’s script “off and on” over a period of several years before deciding to move ahead with production of Bonnie and Clyde (1967, see entry), starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. While a 10 Jan 1967 DV brief claimed the filmmakers considered working with Beatty again on Little Big Man, they ultimately reteamed with Dunaway, who filled the role of “Mrs. Pendrake.”
       The following year, items in the 17 Jun 1968 and 29 Jul 1968 DV reported that the production had secured financing from Cinema Center Films (CCF), with Dustin Hoffman signed to play “Jack Crabb.” According to news stories in the 22 Jan 1969 Var and 21 Feb 1969 NYT, Hoffman was able to accept the role after exercising an “out clause” in the contract for his current Broadway show, Jimmy Shine, which closed with his departure. A 10 Apr 1969 DV casting announcement named Richard Boone for one of the principal roles, but he did not remain with the production. Additional briefs in the 6 Aug 1969 and 21 Oct 1969 editions reported the casting of singer Al Jones and Lenny Rogel, while the 28 Jul 1969 DV claimed Hoffman shot a scene with Shelley Prime, whose participation could not be confirmed.
       According to the 27 Aug 1969 Var, the seventy-day production schedule began 14 Jul 1969, with the 26 Nov 1969 Var reporting a budget just over $7 million. The crew shot on locations in and around Billings, MT, and employed several members of the Crow Nation while working on their reservation. A 1 Oct 1969 NYT article detailed the experience of thirty-five-year-old Pie Glenn, who intended to appear as a background actor but was promoted to a supporting speaking role for $125 a day. An obituary published in the 16 Sep 1969 DV revealed that actor James Anderson died unexpectedly two days earlier. Although still in Billings at the time, he had already completed his work on the film, which marked his last onscreen appearance.
       Once photography was completed in Montana, the unit was scheduled to move north to the Canadian province of Alberta to shoot twelve days of wintertime sequences near Calgary. However, the 6 Jan 1970 DV reported that the area had experienced an unseasonable lack of snow, forcing the production to break in early Dec 1969. Filming resumed by mid-Jan 1970, when the 16 Jan 1970 and 19 Jan 1970 DV revealed that, in addition to snowfall, the crew now faced extreme, sub-zero temperatures. CCF president Gordon Stulberg ran a two-page advertisement in the 29 Jan 1970 DV, describing the many difficulties experienced in the cold, including damage to technical equipment, and thanked the 122 members of the cast and crew for staying on schedule. Scenes in Calgary wrapped on 24 Jan 1970, leaving just two days’ work to be completed at the CBS Studio Center facilities in Studio City, CA. According to a 3 Feb 1971 Var article, Penn spent ten months in editing and post-production.
       Once the picture was ready for release, 2 Dec 1970 DV news item announced two upcoming benefit premieres: 14 Dec 1970 at the Sutton Theatre in New York City, and 22 Dec 1970 at the Hollywood Pacific Theatre in Los Angeles. Proceeds for the East Coast event helped sponsor the Martin Luther King, Jr. scholarship at the Manhattan Country School, while Los Angeles funds aided the Women’s Guild at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Regular screenings continued at the Sutton and Paramount theaters in New York City on 15 Dec 1970, and 23 Dec 1970 in Los Angeles—the day after each city’s respective premieres.
       Little Big Man performed well at the box-office, as the 30 Aug 1971 DV reported earnings exceeding $12 million from more than 3,200 playdates in the U.S. and Canada. CCF executive Milton Goldstein projected that the company would continue to run bookings in major cities across the U.S. and around the world “well into 1972.”
       Chief Dan George’s performance as “Old Lodge Skins” earned him supporting actor awards from the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics, as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. His Academy Award nomination for Actor in a Supporting Role made him the first Native American to ever be honored by AMPAS.
       Onscreen credits acknowledge the cooperation of the Crow Nation, Cheyenne Nation, and Stony Indians (Chippewa Nation).
       Official U.S. Copyright records list a running time of 147 minutes. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
4 Jun 1965
p. 3.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1965
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
14 Jul 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Jan 1967
p. 2.
Daily Variety
17 Jun 1968
p. 1.
Daily Variety
29 Jul 1968
p. 2.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Jul 1969
p. 2.
Daily Variety
6 Aug 1969
p. 3.
Daily Variety
27 Aug 1969
p. 17.
Daily Variety
16 Sep 1969
p. 8.
Daily Variety
21 Oct 1969
p. 4.
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Jan 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Jan 1970
pp. 10-11.
Daily Variety
2 Dec 1970
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 1970
p. 3.
Daily Variety
30 Aug 1971
p. 3.
Los Angeles Times
8 Nov 1966
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1970
Section I, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
22 Dec 1970
Section I, p. 7.
New York Times
21 Feb 1969
p. 36.
New York Times
1 Oct 1969
p. 95.
New York Times
21 Dec 1969
pp. 10-11, 38, 40, 43, 46, 50.
New York Times
15 Dec 1970
p. 53.
New York Times
21 Feb 1971
Section D, p. 11, 16.
Variety
27 Oct 1965
p. 5.
Variety
22 Jan 1969
p. 57, 60.
Variety
27 Aug 1969
p. 17.
Variety
26 Nov 1969
p. 5.
Variety
3 Feb 1971
p. 4.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
1st & 2nd asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Associate ed
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
COSTUMES
Cost des
MUSIC
Additional mus arr
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Mr. Hoffman's makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr cont
Prod asst
Cavalry adv
Cons to the prod
Stills
Key grip
Prop master
Ramrod wrangler
Casting dir
Stunt coord
Main titles
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Little Big Man by Thomas Berger (New York, 1964).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 December 1970
Premiere Information:
New York premiere: 14 December 1970
New York opening: 15 December 1970
Los Angeles premiere: 22 December 1970
Los Angeles opening: 23 December 1970
Production Date:
14 July--early December 1969
mid -late January 1970
Copyright Claimant:
Hiller Productions
Copyright Date:
9 December 1970
Copyright Number:
LP39207
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Panavision
Duration(in mins):
150
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A historian interviews Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man who claims to be the only white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn: Jack, a 10-year-old orphan lost with his sister Caroline, is found by the Cheyenne Indians. When Caroline escapes, Jack is left under the fatherly guidance of Old Lodge Skins. During adolescence, he saves the life of Younger Bear in a raid against the Pawnee Indians and is given the name Little Big Man. At the age of 16, he is about to be killed in a battle against white men when he renounces his Indian background in order to save himself. Subsequently, he is taken into the home of Rev. Silas Pendrake and his wife, who is eager to introduce Jack to the pleasures of sex. After leaving the Pendrakes, he goes into business with Allardyce T. Merriweather, a hawker of patent medicines, and later briefly becomes a gunfighter known as the "Soda Pop Kid." He becomes friends with Wild Bill Hickok, but after one of Hickok's bloody gunfights, Jack decides to settle down. Olga, a Swedish woman, becomes his bride, and Jack opens a haberdashery, but he is cheated by his partners. Following the advice of Gen. George Custer, he decides to head West to seek his fortune. During the trip, however, Olga is abducted by the Indians, and Jack searches for her, joining Custer's U. S. Cavalry unit as a scout to facilitate his search. During a savage attack on the Indian village where he once lived, Jack deserts his unit and finds an Indian woman, Sunshine, in the process of giving birth. They travel to a reservation, headed by Old Lodge Skins, now ... +


A historian interviews Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man who claims to be the only white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn: Jack, a 10-year-old orphan lost with his sister Caroline, is found by the Cheyenne Indians. When Caroline escapes, Jack is left under the fatherly guidance of Old Lodge Skins. During adolescence, he saves the life of Younger Bear in a raid against the Pawnee Indians and is given the name Little Big Man. At the age of 16, he is about to be killed in a battle against white men when he renounces his Indian background in order to save himself. Subsequently, he is taken into the home of Rev. Silas Pendrake and his wife, who is eager to introduce Jack to the pleasures of sex. After leaving the Pendrakes, he goes into business with Allardyce T. Merriweather, a hawker of patent medicines, and later briefly becomes a gunfighter known as the "Soda Pop Kid." He becomes friends with Wild Bill Hickok, but after one of Hickok's bloody gunfights, Jack decides to settle down. Olga, a Swedish woman, becomes his bride, and Jack opens a haberdashery, but he is cheated by his partners. Following the advice of Gen. George Custer, he decides to head West to seek his fortune. During the trip, however, Olga is abducted by the Indians, and Jack searches for her, joining Custer's U. S. Cavalry unit as a scout to facilitate his search. During a savage attack on the Indian village where he once lived, Jack deserts his unit and finds an Indian woman, Sunshine, in the process of giving birth. They travel to a reservation, headed by Old Lodge Skins, now blind from a battle wound. A year later, at a reservation, Sunshine is about to give birth to Jack's child. Jack is surprised to discover that Olga and her new husband, Younger Bear, are neighbors. The morning after Jack has slept with Sunshine's three widowed sisters, Sunshine shows him his new son. But Custer suddenly strikes, and only Jack and Old Lodge Skins survive. Jack tries to take revenge on Custer and sneaks into the general's tent, but Custer's vulnerability causes Jack to falter, and he wanders off, eventually becoming an alcoholic. A brief encounter with Wild Bill helps Jack get back on his feet, but when Hickok is shot down, Jack goes off to become a hermit. Later, he meets up with Custer, who hires him as a scout. Despite Jack's advice and the opinions of the officers, Custer orders the attack on Little Big Horn; the Cheyenne massacre Custer's forces, although Jack is saved when he is recognized by Younger Bear. He is taken back to Old Lodge Skins, who is in the process of preparing for his death ritual; he takes Jack to the mountain and lies down to die, but rain begins to fall, and Old Lodge Skins realizes that his time has not yet come. The two men walk back down the mountain. Jack finishes his story, and the historian is surprised by the revelation. +

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

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