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"The Big Trail" (1930)


HollywoodGolightly
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BigTrailStillBaja.JPG

 

I watched this recently and found it to be quite a unique experience, mostly because of the unusual widescreen format with which it was filmed, but also because of the scope and ambition of the story.

 

The subject of the westbound trail had been used before, and would be used again, in movies such as 3 Bad Men, Cimarron, Wagon Master, How the West Was Won, and even contemporary movies like Far and Away.

 

Of course, what stands out in the Raoul Walsh production is the sheer scope - visually and in narrative terms - of the project. When it was shown in theaters originally, at least in the Grandeur widescreen version, folks got to see a movie in 70mm perhaps for the first time in movie history.

 

Watched today, it's odd to see a movie from 1930 that so closely fits the shape of today's fancy HDTVs. I'm sure that if a high-definition version could be made from a 70mm source, it would look absolutely stunning. As it is, even a DVD made with a 35mm print seems quite amazing, even with a little bit of wear and tear.

 

And of course, the experience of watching John Wayne starring in a movie when he was just about 23 years old is an unexpected delight, for those of us who grew used to watching him mostly in movies he made when he was in his 40s and 50s.

 

There's also the added pleasure of watching what is reportedly the only talkie performance by Tyrone Power, Sr. Honestly, his son doesn't seem to look anything like him, but that's OK.

 

Anyone who hasn't watched The Big Trail in its original widescreen format should really try and get the 2-disc set from Fox Video - definitely avoid the non-widescreen version that circulated on home video for years.

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This has long been one of my favorites, and it's even better in the widescreen edition on a big screen. The panoramas shot by Walsh are still breathtaking, the action appears to go on for miles.

 

This and THE SHOOTIST are also quite poignant as not only do they bookend Wayne's career, but the first one shows us the opening of the west and the later film depicts the encroachment of modern civilization, with automobiles, telephones and dry cleaning.

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> {quote:title=clore wrote:}{quote}

> This has long been one of my favorites, and it's even better in the widescreen edition on a big screen. The panoramas shot by Walsh are still breathtaking, the action appears to go on for miles.

>

 

It mostly seems (to me) they really spared no expense in the production of the film. It couldn't have been cheap to build or hire all those wagons and then to go out filming to those remote areas - and with special cameras, also.

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>>It mostly seems (to me) they really spared no expense in the production of the film. It couldn't have been cheap to build or hire all those wagons and then to go out filming to those remote areas - and with special cameras, also.

 

Keep in mind that the standard-ratio edition was shot by a different cinematographer, so that means even more cameras. Add to that that there were also different crews shooting foreign versions for the French, German and Spanish markets. Somewhere in this forum is a thread with a picture of John Wayne standing beside his foreign counterparts.

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I haven't even opened it yet. It's just the widescreen edition, although they (Deep Discount DVD) was offering the other version at the time for 5 dollars. I'm on their mailing list and occasionally they have one or two-day specials.

 

As you noted in the other thread, sometimes it's difficult to catch up with purchases because of the good stuff that's on-air.

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> {quote:title=clore wrote:}{quote}

> As you noted in the other thread, sometimes it's difficult to catch up with purchases because of the good stuff that's on-air.

 

Exactly. I've lost count of how many DVD boxsets I still have to open and/or watch, because I almost feel bad about buying them and not having watched them months and even years afterward.

 

And this is _before_ buying the Wizard of Oz, Snow White, Gone with the Wind and possibly the 2nd volume of the Esther Williams collection.

 

There's just not enough hours in the day for watching all the stuff I would like to watch... or even the stuff I've bought, or recorded!

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When I look at the unopened stack, at first I get annoyed with myself. Then I remember that what I have bought was purchased because I got items that I wanted at bargain prices. I have a restored THE GODFATHER that cost me only 8 dollars, an OF MICE AND MEN that cost me only 5 dollars. That one I would have watched, but it arrived only two days before TCM aired it in July. I did check it out after seeing the TCM copy, only to see if it had the same audio problems, and it did.

 

I got the 14 Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films for 46 bucks about a month ago and that one I have gotten through half-way.

 

I bought a three-pack of RAWHIDE, GARDEN OF EVIL and THE GUNFIGHTER for 10 dollars and that is the most likely next DVD premiere in my home. I've never seen the Cooper film in widescreen, so that one will be first.

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> {quote:title=clore wrote:}{quote}

> I bought a three-pack of RAWHIDE, GARDEN OF EVIL and THE GUNFIGHTER for 10 dollars and that is the most likely next DVD premiere in my home. I've never seen the Cooper film in widescreen, so that one will be first.

 

I've had that set too, for more than a year I think, and I still haven't opened it. However I did watch Garden of Evil once, I think it was on Fox Movie Channel, but their print was really awful, and it looked slightly time-compressed to boot. I hope I get to watch these westerns soon!

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33 dollars for the Holmes set? Wow! The set that I bought is $105.00 at Amazon. It was knocked down to 61 dollars at Deep Discount and I had a 25% off coupon. and I thought I got a bargain.

 

I've gotten three of the Fox Chan sets recently for between 18 and 20 dollars (only missing the third volume now) and am going to pounce on the Mr. Moto films if I see a similar deal.

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I saw the Charlie Chan sets at Costco last month and it looked like they had all of them for $18.99 and I think I saw Mr. Moto but that was a while back. With the holidays coming up they may be stocking up.I got the John Ford Fox comedies for 18.99 there.I got the John Ford "Submarine Patrol" and Tom Mix "Destry Rides Again" at a site I found, but they have a lot of bootleg DVDs.But they also have a large selection of old films that I have never seen on DVD. I just ordered 2 Alan Ladd films "Chicago Deadline" and "Salty O'Rourke" and Gary Cooper "City Streets"

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I'm in Queens, NY and there isn't a Costco anywhere near me. I keep reading of friends catching great DVD deals there or at Big Lots, but a 75-minute trip to the one Big Lots store around only yielded me a few steak knives. All that they had were some public domain titles.

 

My brother picked up a Warner Gangsters Volume 1 at Costco for 18 dollars. He lives in Lancaster Pa and on my next trip there, I'll take a look.

 

The two Ladd films are items I'd like to have, I've not seen either since the early 70s. CHICAGO DEADLINE is a cousin of sorts to both LAURA and the Black Dahlia case and was remade as FAME IS THE NAME OF THE GAME for TV.

 

Being a fan of both Walsh and Ladd, as well as of thoroughbred racing, I found SALTY O'ROURKE a delight. It was Stanley Clements' time to play a jockey, it seemed that he and Frankie Darro alternated such roles. Gail Russell is as lovely as always.

 

I must confess to being paranoid about dealing with companies that offer bootlegs. One really has no recourse if ordering an illegal film and the order is unfulfilled. I'm certainly not about to give them credit card or bank account info either, but as I said, I'm paranoid about identity theft. I once made a donation to my PBS station on a new credit card in order to get a premium for my then three-year-old son. It was the only time that card was used. A volunteer used the card number to order all sorts of merchandise. I got it straightened out, but it took a few months and caused some problems at the time.

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I lived in Forest Hills and Rego Park many many years ago. I know what you mean about giving out numbers. But I go thru Pay Pal or Google to pay for the purchases and keep a eye on my bill statements.My main concern was the quality of these copies and I just looked at Tom Mix "Destry rides Again" and "Submarine Patrol" and they look pretty good considering they're 70 to almost 80 years old. I hope the Ladd and Cooper DVDs look as well as these.You can buy from Costco on line but they haven't the selection they have in their stores..

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>>I lived in Forest Hills and Rego Park many many years ago.

 

Oh, did you? My ex lived on Alderton St., just off 63rd Drive when we met. My son presently lives on Saunders St, just a block away from the old Trylon theater. I've been in Jackson Heights since 1973.

 

I wish you luck on the print quality of the Ladd and Cooper DVDs. I have CITY STREETS on VHS from a WNET airing in the early 80s, I wonder if it will still play. I'm hoping these things will show up on TCM when the MCA stuff starts becoming more plentiful.

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Great talking to you. I spent many hours of movie watching at the Forest Hills and Midway theaters. Are they still there? The Trylon also brings back memories. We lived on 64th Ave right off 108St. Graduated Forest Hills High in 1960. Looking forward to the new deal with Universal and maybe see some film on TCM that hasn't aired in a long time.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Midway is still there, cut up into about six screens. I believe the Forest Hills theater is closed. I haven't been over to the 71st/Continental area in a few years now, not since I saw CASINO ROYALE at the Midway. There used to be some nice shops there and on Austin Street, but now it looks typical with the usual five-dollar coffee sellers, chain stores and TGIFridays. The "mall-ification" of America is in high gear over there except there's nowhere to park. Well, there is the indoor lot (near the Continental Theater on Austin) that charges 6 dollars for the first hour. But you have to sit in bottle-necked traffic to get there.

 

I grew up in Ridgewood and graduated from Grover Cleveland in 1969.

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I graduated from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in 1956 and Forest Hills High in 1960. First job in high school was at Alexanders dept store in Rego Park Then got into TV and worked at WPIX and Wor. Sad to hear about Austin st. Remember walking along there from Queen of Martyrs on the way to the Triboro bus on Continental Ave.The last time I was back there I brought my 2 sons to New York to visit my Mom and sisters, They lived in Elmhurst behind the new {then} Macys in 1989 and went to see Batman at the Midway and showed them the school. Well like the man said about going home again....Thanks for the catch up. I enjoyed it.....

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The name is vaguely familiar, but I worked at WOR in 1964, the first time I was ever in the Empire State Building and I was born and raised in New York, that's where they had Master Control in those days.I was only there for 3 months then worked at WPIX and NBC and ABC then moved to California in 1967 and lived in L.A. and San Francisco until I retired and moved to Washington State last year.

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Chris worked in the programming and scheduling department for the station when I met him in 1966 and he was still there when I was in syndication in 1986. Prior to that, I was advising the station on programming when I worked for a TV station rep firm that helped sell airtime for WOR and KHJ. He retired when the station moved to Secaucus. Chris was also an author on film, "The Films of Sherlock Holmes" is one of his titles.

 

I was just a 15-year-old film fan doing some work on "Castle of Frankenstein" magazine when I met him through Calvin Beck the editor. They were longtime friends and both were very patient with me and all of my questions. Chris also held screenings at a YMCA near Grand Central and I helped out on chores for him.

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