Little Big Man (1970) – An incredible journey through time

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Little Big Man, a 121-year-old man living in a rest home takes you back in the old west and recites his story in a mesmerizing way. His story has all the shades of a human life. Innocence, madness, despair and enlightenment. Settle down in your chair and listen to him! I assure you, a story like his is not told that often.

little big man
Directed By : Arthur Penn

Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Richard Mulligan, Jeff Corey, Amy Eccles, Kelly Jean Peters, Faye Dunaway

One thing I like about this classic western movie is, it’s never stagnant. Capturing memoirs from a long span of 120 years in just a 139 minutes movie is only possible if story takes big (and interesting) leaps in time. And Little Big Man takes these leaps very artistically. Along with our little big man Dustin Hoffman you go different places, meet different personalities and have different experiences in the Wild West.

little big man

This gem of Classic Western Movies opens with a 121 years old Mr. Jack Crabb sitting next to a nerd historian who is interested in knowing life style of Indians in the old west. Jack starts his story and it takes you 111 years back when Jack’s family was murdered. We see our little Jack survives with his sister Caroline. They are taken to an Indian tribe Cheyenne where the real story of Jack begins.

Unlikely to comical paranoia Caroline have with Indians, Jack has a great time with them for next couple of years. They teach him hunt and reading trails. Soon he earns his new name ‘Little Big Man’ with his innocent bravery. Many movies Hoffman has done have remarkable character definition. Little Big Man is one of them.

But this Little Big Man could not have more fun with Indians as he is captured by whites and is sent to learn religion from a lady of interesting character named Mrs. Pendrake. From here Jack goes wild. Below are his different roles and personalities :

little big man

• An assistant to a quack medicine man

• A fast gunfighter (without any guts). The scene in which Dustin Hoffman meets another great gun fighter Wild Bill Hickok in a bar is hilarious. Instead of looking dangerous in gunfighter’s outfit, he looks confused and conscious

• A poor business man

• An Indian again and a husband of four Indian wives. Again, while it makes you chuckle in your chair, also it makes you sympathize with his misery

• A mad man, covered with mud and screaming in streets

• A ghost living a solitary life in woods

• An army scout. His wish to avenge everything he lost in his life makes him join the Army and he sees the end of this army with his own eyes at the Little Bighorn

During the entire movie, you keep your back-pack ready because Little Big Man never settles down in one place or he is not fortuned enough to.

Dustin Hoffman touches your soul with his performance. He maintains the basics of his character so beautifully that he creates sympathy and comedy at the same time. Also it offers great performances from some other actors as well. ‘Grandpa’ Old Lodge Skins played by Chief Dan George will really remind you of your own Grandpa with his wise lines at right moments.

For his portrayal of Old Lodge Skins, Chief Dan George was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He won multiple honors for his performance including the Producers Guild of America Award, the National Society of Film Critics Award and the New York Film Critics Circle Award

Dustin Hoffman won third place for his performance with the Producers Guild of America and was nominated as Best Actor by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

The screenplay by Calder Willingham is considered one of the best among screenplays of classic western movies and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award as Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium.

It is a delighting experience for all fans of classic western movies. The list of classic western movies could not be completed without considering Little Big Man.

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