Little Laura & Big John (1973)

R | 82 or 84 mins | Drama | April 1973

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HISTORY

The onscreen title is Little Laura and Big John although some contemporary sources refer to it as Little Laura & Big John . The picture opens with footage evoking a newsreel about crime during Prohibition, with orange-tinted scenes from black-and-white movies illustrating the era. The offscreen narrator lists famous gangsters from the era, and, over a map of Florida, states that the John Ashley Gang preceded all others and is still remembered for their legacy of violence. After this introduction, the color fades to black-and-white, then changes to color as “Laura’s mother” speaks into the camera. This device, as well as flashbacks to “Laura” and “John’s” childhood, are used throughout the film to narrate the story.
       The opening cast credits are shown over photographs of the characters as they are pulled out of a trunk by Laura’s mother. Still photographer Steve Wever's surname is incorrectly spelled "Weaver" in the onscreen credits. The film’s original songs comment on the action: “The Player Pianna Man” is accompanied by illustrations of piano playing and nightlife, superimposed over the action onscreen, and “Everybody Likes It Up at Raiford” is used ironically when John Ashley is sentenced to hard labor at the State Penitentiary at Raiford.
       According to information submitted by the studio to AMPAS, the film was completed in 1972, and although it was released in 1973, the copyright was not registered until 15 May 1989, at which time Louis Wiethe was listed as the claimant and the copyright number was PA-447-219. Actors Alfred Liebert, Monroe Myers, Mary Clark and Charles Beyer are listed only in the opening cast credits and no character names ... More Less

The onscreen title is Little Laura and Big John although some contemporary sources refer to it as Little Laura & Big John . The picture opens with footage evoking a newsreel about crime during Prohibition, with orange-tinted scenes from black-and-white movies illustrating the era. The offscreen narrator lists famous gangsters from the era, and, over a map of Florida, states that the John Ashley Gang preceded all others and is still remembered for their legacy of violence. After this introduction, the color fades to black-and-white, then changes to color as “Laura’s mother” speaks into the camera. This device, as well as flashbacks to “Laura” and “John’s” childhood, are used throughout the film to narrate the story.
       The opening cast credits are shown over photographs of the characters as they are pulled out of a trunk by Laura’s mother. Still photographer Steve Wever's surname is incorrectly spelled "Weaver" in the onscreen credits. The film’s original songs comment on the action: “The Player Pianna Man” is accompanied by illustrations of piano playing and nightlife, superimposed over the action onscreen, and “Everybody Likes It Up at Raiford” is used ironically when John Ashley is sentenced to hard labor at the State Penitentiary at Raiford.
       According to information submitted by the studio to AMPAS, the film was completed in 1972, and although it was released in 1973, the copyright was not registered until 15 May 1989, at which time Louis Wiethe was listed as the claimant and the copyright number was PA-447-219. Actors Alfred Liebert, Monroe Myers, Mary Clark and Charles Beyer are listed only in the opening cast credits and no character names are given. The credits for production mixer Ed Wright and music mixer Bob Kidder were illegible on the print viewed, but were confirmed by modern sources. Two crew members also had roles in the film, production assistant Allen played a bootlegger and chief electrician Guanci a weight lifter. The end credits end with the acknowledgment, “our thanks and appreciation to The Martin County Historical Society It’s [sic] Elliott Museum and House of Refuge.”
       The movie is loosely based on the lives of John Ashley (ca. 1893--1924), his girl friend, “Queen of the Everglades” Laura Upthegrove (ca. 1897--1927), and the exploits of the Ashley Gang in southeast Florida from the early 1900s through the 1920s. The gang terrorized the area with bank robbery, hijacking, bootlegging, murder and running liquor between the Bahamas and Stuart, FL. According to a Box 2 Apr 1973 news item, the film was made entirely in Florida and shot at the locations where Ashley and his gang lived. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
2 Apr 1973.
---
Box Office
9 Apr 1973
p. 4580.
Daily Variety
14 Sep 1972.
---
Daily Variety
12 Dec 1972.
---
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1973.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Sep 1972.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jan 1973.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Louis Weithe Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
PRODUCER
Prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam, 2d unit
Asst cam
Chief elec
Chief elec, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir, 2d unit
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed, 2d unit
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop master, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Ward, 2d unit
Cost, 2d unit
Party dresses, 2d unit
MUSIC
Mus comp, cond and arr
Mus mixer
SOUND
Prod mixer
Sd, 2d unit
VISUAL EFFECTS
Optical eff and titles
MAKEUP
Makeup
Makeup, 2d unit
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Scr supv
Asst to prod
Prod secy
Prod asst
Prod asst, 2d unit
SOURCES
SONGS
"Easy Little Laura Girl," "Everybody Likes It Up at Raiford," "Wrap Me Up in Ribbons," "The Player Pianna Man" and "Goin to Jacksonville," written by Bob Woodburn and Bill Walker, © Advertisers Music, Inc. A.S.C.A.P.,vocals by Mara Lynn Brown and Cliff Johnson, Jr.
DETAILS
Release Date:
April 1973
Premiere Information:
World premiere in Florida: 18 April 1973
Production Date:
1972 in Florida
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
82 or 84
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In her Florida Everglades home, Laura Upthegrove’s mother recalls how her daughter and her childhood friend, John Ashley, became notorious criminals in the 1920s: After accidentally shooting his partner in the otter trade, Seminole Indian DeSoto Tiger, John hides the body, sells the pelts and goes to a hotel with Laura, where they squander all their money. Now broke, Laura suggests bank robbery as a profession, and learning that DeSoto’s body has been discovered and that he is wanted for murder, John agrees that he has nothing to lose by adopting a life of crime. John and Laura decide to leave the Everglades with help from John’s brother Bob, who arrives at the couple’s lean-to in the woods with provisions and a rifle, but no money. Hearing a car approaching, John prepares to rob the driver, but when he sees it is his friend Doc Kennedy, he lowers the rifle. After John swears to Doc that the shooting was accidental, Doc agrees to keep his hiding place secret, but soon deputies arrive looking for John. Outwitting the deputies, John holds them at gunpoint and arrogantly announces that Sheriff Baker will have to come for him himself. Before long however, John is sitting in a jail cell protesting his innocence. After visiting John, Bob tells their parents how anxious John is to get out of jail and vows to help him. That night, Bob cuts through the wire fence around the jail and when the deputy comes in with his dinner, John knocks him to the floor and escapes. In a clearing in the woods, Bob introduces John ... +


In her Florida Everglades home, Laura Upthegrove’s mother recalls how her daughter and her childhood friend, John Ashley, became notorious criminals in the 1920s: After accidentally shooting his partner in the otter trade, Seminole Indian DeSoto Tiger, John hides the body, sells the pelts and goes to a hotel with Laura, where they squander all their money. Now broke, Laura suggests bank robbery as a profession, and learning that DeSoto’s body has been discovered and that he is wanted for murder, John agrees that he has nothing to lose by adopting a life of crime. John and Laura decide to leave the Everglades with help from John’s brother Bob, who arrives at the couple’s lean-to in the woods with provisions and a rifle, but no money. Hearing a car approaching, John prepares to rob the driver, but when he sees it is his friend Doc Kennedy, he lowers the rifle. After John swears to Doc that the shooting was accidental, Doc agrees to keep his hiding place secret, but soon deputies arrive looking for John. Outwitting the deputies, John holds them at gunpoint and arrogantly announces that Sheriff Baker will have to come for him himself. Before long however, John is sitting in a jail cell protesting his innocence. After visiting John, Bob tells their parents how anxious John is to get out of jail and vows to help him. That night, Bob cuts through the wire fence around the jail and when the deputy comes in with his dinner, John knocks him to the floor and escapes. In a clearing in the woods, Bob introduces John to bank robbers Ray Lynn and Clarence Middleton. The men, anxious to form an alliance with John, demonstrate their shooting, but are no match for John’s prowess with a gun. Later, with Laura serving as decoy, the newly formed Ashley Gang successfully robs the local bank, but as they drive away, Ray accidentally shoots John in the eye. Insisting that the gang go on without him, John is apprehended and jailed in Miami. Once more, Bob tries to help his brother escape, but this time he is surrounded by lawmen and shot dead in the attempt. After Bob’s funeral, John sits in his cell with a lawyer who tells him that although there is insufficient proof that he murdered DeSoto, he will be convicted for robbing the bank. John is sentenced to eighteen years of hard labor and taken to Raiford State Penitentiary. While clearing brush, John escapes and after he evades the posse and bloodhounds on his trail, posters are issued offering a $500 reward for his capture. John and Laura go to New York City where, after spending all their money, they move on to Philadelphia and Washington, robbing banks, barber shops and general stores before reuniting with the gang in a hut in the Everglades. When one of the men suggests that they could earn good money during Prohibition as rum runners, John agrees and sends for his cousin, Hanford Mobley, to help them. Hanford is thrilled to be included in the gang and they proceed to bring liquor in from Grand Bahama Island, soon making enough money to buy a motor-powered boat. John and Hanford are making a run when the Coast Guard orders them to stop for inspection but they evade capture by giving the liquor away to nearby beach-goers, thus destroying the evidence of their crime. After expanding their business by hijacking other rum runners, John decides to return to robbing banks. John instructs Ray to stop a car and pretend to be a trapper who has overheard the gang’s plan to rob the Fort Lauderdale bank at noon the next day. The following day, while the lawmen stake out the bank in Fort Lauderdale, the gang robs the Pampano bank, after which they move to a large beach house where they drink and carouse. Back in town, Sheriff Baker’s superiors demand he do something to stop the Ashley Gang, while at the beach house, Laura is trying to convince John to leave Florida for his safety. John ignores Laura’s requests and when his brother Bill arrives, he decides to risk capture by going with him to visit their parents. Laura accompanies John and Bill to a clearing where their father is camped out and they set up a tent nearby. The news of their whereabouts reaches the sheriff and that night three deputies open fire on the Ashleys’ camp, wounding Ray and killing John’s father. Vowing to avenge his father’s death by embarrassing the sheriff, the gang embarks on a crime spree and random acts of destruction throughout Florida, boosting the reward for John’s capture to $1,000. Staying in yet another hotel, Laura angrily confronts John, demanding a more stable life, but he maintains that before he ends his career in crime he must kill Sheriff Baker. When John goes downstairs to the lobby and invites the rest of the gang to go to Palm Beach with him, they are overheard by a hotel guest who calls the sheriff and claims the reward for the information. Sheriff Baker uses a detour sign to trap the gang on the road and when they are surrounded, he and his men open fire. This time the gang’s luck has run out and they are all killed while Laura sits drinking alone in the hotel room. +

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

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