Monday, December 20, 2010

1952 - THE BIG SKY, big Howard Hawks production in a melancholy mood

The adventures of a keel boat expedition heading up the Missouri river to trade with the Indians. 

This was a big expensive Howard Hawks production.  Kirk Douglas was the star of the film but The Big Sky was really a low key ensemble piece with the actors delivering most of their lines with Howard Hawk's famous overlapping dialog technique.

It's hard to know exactly what Hawks was trying for with this film, he has a number of scenes that are among the best he has every directed. He also has a lot of scenes that seem to go absolutely nowhere.  Hawks really indulges himself with comedy and little character bits throughout the film at the expensive of any kind of narrative.  He has one extended scene where Kirk Douglas has his finger amputated.  Hawks has Douglas play the entire scene as a comedy.

Even the music in this film is unusual for a Hawks film.  The composer Dimitri Tiomkin who usually specialized in bombastic film music wrote one of his most low key scores.

The Big Sky is Howard Hawks at his most laid back, barely bothering with a story, the film is even more plotless than Hatari or Rio Bravo.

There does seem to be an overriding sense of melancholy running throughout the film for people and a time in American history that has now vanished. 

The Big Sky is a beautiful black and white film, photographed on magnificent Grand Teton locations.

122 meandering minutes.

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