IN THIS SWEEPING EPIC THAT SWINGS FROM HIGH COMEDY TO DRAMA, A 121 YEAR OLD SURVIVOR OF CUSTER'S LAST STAND NARRATES HIS COLORFUL LIFE STORY. HE TELLS OF EVERYTHING FROM HIS ADOPTION BY CHEYENNE INDIANS TO HIS MARRIAGES & ... more »FRIENDSHIPS WITH WILD BILL HICKOK.« less
"Advertised as a comedy when originally released, LITTLE BIG MAN is much, much more than that. Director Arthur Penn's sweeping film depicting the clash of the Indian and white cultures will have you chuckling one moment, then shaking your head sadly at man's inhumanity to man the next. Dustin Hoffman as the ever industrious Jack Crabb takes this movie on his shoulders and carries it superbly. To say that the actor shows some "range" in this role is the epitome of an understatement: from portraying an adolescent teenager to a fragile 121-year-old-man (phenomenal makeup job), from snake-oil salesman to mule skinner, Hoffman brings Jack's fascinating life to splendorous glory. And Hoffman is funny--darn funny--with a wonderful knack for physical comedy. In addition to Hoffman, LITTLE BIG MAN offers other savory treats. Richard Mulligan is absolutely delightful as a narcissistic General George Armstrong Custer--the stunning Faye Dunaway positively wicked as naughty Mrs. Pendrake. Chief Dan George, who portrays Old Lodge Skins, Jack's adopted Cheyenne grandfather, delivers countless one-liners, yet lends a quiet, heartfelt dignity to his role. In fact, this is a movie one will wish to savor again and again--a beautifully crafted, well-made film that is timeless in its ability to entertain.
Political Commentary from the Native American viewpoint
D. Mikels | 02/16/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The film opens on a decrepit, wrinkled, yet still energetic ultra senior citizen. He is the film's central figure - one who looks back on a 121 year life - a life lived in interesting times. Hoffman's Jack Crabb, is perhaps a more cynical old west version of Forest Gump. Through random experience, this one man encounters almost every legendary figure and event of the old west. Like the movie "Forest Gump", there is strong subliminal commentary on the period that came nearly a century after. Yet, very much unlike Gump, but true to it's era, Little Big Man sees more of the negative side of the world. At 121, Jack is very much a critical child of the 1960's.When first shown in the early 70's, the film's protracted war on the Native American culture became a metaphor for the period of genocide, then closing in Vietnam. While perhaps lost on first time viewers today, the protest message is so strong, that one can almost hear the sounds of helicopter air cavalry under the droning thunder of Custer's horse mounted assault on an Indian village. All that is missing is the Wagner and Napalm of "Apocalypse Now".The eyes of Jack Crabb see the white man as bigoted, arrogant, insincere, vindictive and amoral - as he fluctuates between white culture and that of the Native Americans, whom he labels: "the human beings". A bit of a shuttle diplomat at times, Jack becomes almost an external missionary to both nations, while never truly accepting, or being accepted, by either group.On the first level, Little Big Man is satisfying entertainment, on the next it is literature. One can see this film merely as a humorous western with employment opportunities for half the character actors in Hollywood and smile frequently. - OR - One can also look deeper and see the perspective of the period in which it was written and developed. It may give one pause to think hard about the mood of those times."
My Son , this Movie Makes My Heart Soar Like a Hawk
Kenneth M. Gelwasser | Hollywood, Fl USA | 05/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I remember seeing the original theatrical release of Arthur Penn's "Little Big Man" in the early 1970's. Now over thirty years later it has been released in DVD form and it is a film, that is both funny and tragic as ever.In the film, 121 year old Jack Crabb (played humorously by Dustin Hoffman) recounts his life (in narrated backflash) growing up among both the Cheyenne Indians and the white man in the old wild West.We follow the Crabb character as he goes through various phases as a Cheyenne warrior, a medicine show conman, a gunfighter, entrepreneurial business man, drunkard and finally a mule skinner/U.S. Army scout. Crabb is a man trapped between two cultures. He hilariously stumbles through the old west trying to find a place among his own kind, even though his heart is still with the Cheyenne Indians who adopted him. The movie leads up to Crabb's eventual, critical participation in the 'Battle of Little Bighorn', otherwise known as 'Custard's Last Stand'.The film is humorus as it shows how little people change over history. Just as today, people of the historical old West were driven by such things as love, lust, vanity, power and money.Unfortunatly they also were driven by bigiotry, hatred and violence.One of the main themes of "Little Big Man" is the terrible, almost genocidal treatment of the American Indian at the hands of the U.S. government.It's somewhat ironic, that the Cheyenne in the film refer to themselves as 'the human beings', yet the white men seem to treat them as anything but that. Arthur Penn (director of "Bonnie & Clyde") has created a sprawling, well directed, historical tapestry of a film, which makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.The movie is a star vehicle for the then young, Dustin Hoffman. Like "The Graduate", this film shows off, what a wonderful comic performer Hoffman can be.The large cast has many standout performances. Faye Dunaway is hilarious as Jack's religious, yet lascivious, adoptive mother, Mrs.Pendrake. The same goes for comic actor, Richard Mulligan, who puts in a very funny performance playing General George Armstong Custard as a pompous egomaniac, who's vanity leads to his imfamous place in history.But by far, one of the best performances in the film comes from Chief Dan George, who play's Hoffman's wise and mystical, yet somewhat scatological adoptive, indian grandfather.The character is intersting, because he always seems to be able tell us the obvious truth of the moment.He understands that this time in history is the begining of the end for his people. I love the speech he makes in which he explains, that "there are endless amounts of white men, but only so many 'human beings'" (indians).Its's a shame Chief George didn't get an Academy Award for his wonderful performance.The DVD for this movie has a good picture and sound transfer, but is absolutly bare bones in extras (not even a trailer). Still, it is great film, which I highly recommend."
One of the truly all time greatest epic westerns
Joe O'Brien | Virginia Beach, Virginia USA | 09/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Little Big Man" from 1970 is one of the truly all time great epic westerns.I first saw it in the theatre back in the early '70's and was really impressed.I later added it to my video library back in the '80's first on Beta then later on VHS.The movie loses some of it's epic scope when transferred to the small screen ,however it's still powerful. Directed by Arthur Penn(the classic "Bonnie&Clyde from 1967) and based on the novel by Thomas Berger, it stars Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb.The story is told by Jack as a 121 year man to a writer who is interviewing him and he narrates throughout the story. In the beginning of the story we see the aftermath of a battle with white settlers after an Indian attack.Jack and his sister are captured by the Cheyenne braves.His sister escapes but he is adopted and raised by the tribe who call themselves "the human beings". As Jack grows into a young man he proves himself in battle and is given the name "Little Big Man" by the elder of the tribe "Old Lodge Skins" (well played by actual Native American ,Chief Dan George),and what was most impressive was the fact that Chief Dan George wasn't a professional actor.Jack is given that name because his size is little but his bravery is big.Old Lodge Skins becomes Jack's adopted Grandfather and their relationship is at the center of the story. The movie features a first rate supporting cast including Martin Balsam as Mr.Merriweather,Faye Dunaway as Mrs.Pendrake, Jeff Corey as Wild Bill Hickok,Richard Mulligan as General George Armstrong Custer and Aimee Eccles as Sunshine.The story has many funny moments,sad moments,and intense moments, something not found in many westerns or many movies for that matter.Chief Dan George was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role.A movie with a similar theme came out 20 years later in 1990 called "Dances with Wolves" directed and starring Kevin Costner which won several Academy Awards.Some found that film to be as good as "Little Big Man",some didn't.The tagline on the movie poster for "Little Big Man" read,"Being the adventures of Jack Crabb,either the most neglected hero of the American West or a liar of insane proportions." Judge for yourself."
The West was a small place.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 02/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Comedy.... Action.... Drama.... War... and Romance is another great combination in a film top with serious issues. "Little Big Man" starts you off in 1970, with a reporter interviewing Mr. Crabb (Dustin Hoffman, in one of his great performances), the sole white survivor of the Battle of Little Big Horn, a wrinkled visage who is 121 years old at the time of the interview. In the course of his tall tale about the taming of the west, he recounts his career as a Cheyenne Indian, a bible thumper, a snake-oil salesman, a gunfighter, a drunk, and just about everything else one could be in those days. Since he was a white man raised by the Cheyenne, and spoke both languages fluently, he moved back and forth between the two worlds.
His story is great when it is being funny. I laughed at the sight of Dustin Hoffman dressed as a gunfighter. He really was the fastest gun in the West, and also the surest shot. Only one little thing kept him from achieving gunfighter immortality. He didn't like shooting at any living things.
Thankfully this was produced before the forces of political correctness could bowdlerize it. Today this would be watered down to avoid the epithets and stereotypes that add color and authenticity to this wonderful film. It is a obvious precursor to `Dances With Wolves', but also to a movie where the influence is less patent like `Forrest Gump' where famous persons are infused into a historical comic-drama. Numerous interesting characters infuse the picture: the epicene (though lustful) sister, the wise, yet pixilated Indian grandfather (played brilliantly by Chief Dan George), the unconscionable General Custer, the libertine Mrs. Pendrake (Faye Dunaway) and of course Dustin Hoffman's own character.
A funny and sad study of a wild time in history mixed with modern sentiments. A tall tale that resonates with truth.