T.it.: “Il grande sentiero”; Scen.: Marie Boyle, Jack Peabody, Florence Postal (non accr.), dal romanzo di Hal G. Everts; F.: Lucien N. Andriot (versione 35mm), Arthur Edeson (versione 70mm); Op.: Don Anderson, Curt Fetters, Sol Halperin, Bill McDonald, Dave Ragin; M.: Jack Dennis; Scgf.: Harold Miles, Fred Sersen; Trucco: Jack Dawn, Louise Sloane (non accr.); Mu.: R.H. Bassett, Peter Brunelli, James F. Hanley, Arthur Kay, Jack Virgil (non accr.); Su.: Bill Brent, E. Corkley, D. Daniels, W.D. Flick, W. Griffith, Paul Heinly, Charles Kehl, George Leverett, V.O. McCann (non accr.); Ass. R.: Harry Smith, Max Cohn, Harry Dawe, Lou Kunkel, Bobby Mack, Henry Pollack, Roger Sherman (non accr.); Int.: John Wayne (Breck Coleman), Marguerite Churchill (Ruth Cameron), El Brendel (Gussie), Tully Marshall (Zeke), Tyrone Power (Red Flack), David Rollins (Dave “Davey” Cameron), Frederick Burton (Pa Bascom), Ian Keith (Bill Thorpe), Charles Stevens (Lopez), Louise Carver (matrigna di Gussie); Prod.: 20th Century Fox; 35mm. L.: 3330 m. D.: 122’ a 24 f/s.
The Big Trail was the last and the most ambitious of the four feature films Fox made using the 70mm system known as Grandeur. The process was invented by Earl Sponable (1895- 1977) who, together with Theodor Case, also designed Fox’s system for recording sound on film (Movietone), that would ultimately replace Warner’s impractical disk recording system (Vitaphone). Grandeur used a special Mitchell camera, an optical soundtrack, and an aspect ratio of 1:2.13. The first feature made with this process was the Fox review film Movietone Follies of 1929, originally released in the standard 35mm format. Happy Days and Song O’ My Heart (distributed only in 35 mm) would follow. Walsh insisted on shooting The Big Trail entirely in exterior locations, and Fox, in financial difficulty due to the market crisis, agreed but made budget cuts on the cast. The leading role went to an actor who was then a bit of a greenhorn, recommended to Walsh by John Ford: his name was Marion Michael Morrison, but the Fox press office dubbed him John Wayne. The deserts of Arizona and the grandiose landscapes of Montana and Wyoming were filmed by Lucien Andriot in standard format, and by Arthur Edeson (The Thief of Baghdad, All Quiet on the Western Front) in Grandeur. Edeson’s assistants included Sol Halprin (1902- 1977), who then became head of the photography department and supervised adaptation of the Grandeur cameras to the CinemaScope format. The film did not attain the desired success, critics remained unenthusiastic, and several distributors refused to handle it because they couldn’t afford the costs of screening in 70mm. Fox, who had invested four million dollars, went bankrupt, the great format was abandoned, and John Wayne had to work his way up the ranks for about ten years before turning into the star we all know today. The restored version of the film is in CinemaScope on 35mm film.