Skip to content

The Big Trees (1952)

According to Hollywood legend and Kirk Douglas himself in his autobiography, The Ragman’s Son, he agreed to appear in this Warner Brother’s “B” unit adventure for free on the condition that the studio release him from the bonds of his seven year contract to become a free agent in tinsel town. In just a few short years, Douglas would launch his own production company, Bryna, to front a number of his future projects starting with The Indian Fighter in 1955.

big-trees-half-sheet

Journeyman director Felix Feist is called in to duty here for this technicolor adventure that gives us the cocky and brash Douglas as a smooth talking con man in 1900 heading a logging outfit. The plan is to take down the giant Sequoia trees that populate California by hook or by crook. Setting the tone in the opening minutes, Kirk will avoid a mutiny amongst his workers, convince them to board a train heading to California and make a new friend in Edgar Buchanan whom he sends west ahead of everyone else to secure the logging rights to the lands involved.

douglas-in-big-trees

“When a man’s my friend, I count on him for anything.”

Edgar will come to realize that the seemingly good natured Kirk is far from the straight forward shooter he pretends to be. Especially when it comes to the colonists/Quakers who populate the wooded area Kirk intends to strip of it’s beauty. Upon arrival in California, Kirk realizes that the honest Edgar has made promises to the locals, he has no intention of keeping. Those trees represent big paydays and as far as he is concerned, they’re coming down. When Alan Hale Jr. and the rest of the loggers arrive, the underhanded payoffs begin as Kirk lays siege to the lands.

bigtreespic2

The good natured Edgar, has left Kirk’s operation to stand firm with the Quakers and attractive leading lady Eve Miller. She happens to be single and just might have caught the soft side of Douglas’ tough exterior. For a “B” unit flick, there is plenty going on in this 90 minute plot that plays longer. Kirk is out to score the trees. He has two women on the go including the gentle Miss Miller and saloon girl/part time lover, Patrice Wymore. The stunning Wymore was married to Errol Flynn at the time of this film’s production. We’ll also see a number of double crosses and the expected action sequences befitting a star of Kirk’s magnitude of 1952. Kirk will even get to play the hero in a variation of the “girl tied to the railroad tracks” scenario.

We all know what the outcome is going to be from the moment Kirk arrives in California and sees the goodness and ever giving forgiveness that is bestowed upon him by Miss Miller. It’s more a matter of just how much excitement and sprawling action we can fit into the screenplay. Naturally it’ll take the death of a leading player to put Kirk over the edge and on the side of right vs. the wrong in his ex partner and would be killer John Archer.

douglas-in-big-trees2

If it weren’t for the participation of Douglas who by this time had starred in a string of highly praised films including Champion, Detective Story and to be released in ’52 as well, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Big Trees may have but disappeared by this time. Thanks to his stardom and what he has become to Hollywood history, the film is probably the easiest to attain out of his list of titles thanks to it’s Public Domain status. Looking back to the days when I began to collect titles on VHS it’s the first Douglas title I acquired as my own thanks to the bargain bin days. I hadn’t seen it in years so felt now was the time.

Director Feist does a very good job here and while this may play like a second tier product, there are some very well done stunts towards the end and big time explosions and train wrecks that place it a rung up the ladder from other titles during the double bill era. The necessary stock footage turns up for some logging scenes and there’s a well staged scene of Douglas walking around one of these giant trees as he measures it’s girth at 28 feet.

kirk-and-eve-miller

Is it any good? It’s far better than Douglas would probably admit to. Sure the plot is telegraphed and many of the characters are clichéd but it makes for a fine rainy afternoon daydream. Kirk gives it a go in a role that is a variation on the type that got him started but it’s Edgar Buchanan who walks away with the best role in the film. Another example of a character player  doing what they do best. Still, with all due respect to Buchanan, it’s star power that lured people to the box office at this point in Hollywood history. Something Kirk Douglas possessed in spades.

 

7 Comments »

  1. I saw this a long time ago in a college class…and remember nothing about it! So thanks for jogging the memory a bit. I’ve seen one other film by director Felix Feist, and I thought he did a really good job with it: The Devil Thumbs a Ride (worth a look if you can find it). And though the poster above promises it, I’m sure there is NOT a scene where Kirk and Eve stand tall on a log while it barrels over the top of a waterfall!

  2. It’s an awful long time since I last saw this and I don’t recall much either – the hugeness of some of the trees seemed to stick in my memory though. I’m not sure why I didn’t revisit it – maybe the public domain status left me thinking it was somehow less worthy. Feist was a solid studio hand who made some good entertaining movies around this time.

  3. Hey, I just found this in my disorganized DVD library. Now that I’ve read your review, I’m looking forward to seeing this for Edgar Buchanan (whom I’m not too familiar with), as well as the always-fab Kirk Douglas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

IDENTIKIT

The current online container for the writer Konrad Wardh

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

watching movies

Movies ala Mark

With a Cast of Thousands

Classic Horrors

From silent screen to Halloween, and everything scary in between.

IDENTIKIT

The current online container for the writer Konrad Wardh

Just Hit Play

The Good, the Bad and sometimes Ugly in film

Strother Martin Film Project

What we've got here is failure to communicate

Sophia Riley Kobacker

it's all about the story, possums...

Wolfmans Cult Film Club

Cult, B-Movies, cheesy fun films to Film Noir to classics new to me.

Talking Pulp

All things pulp and then some

cinema cities

a personal odyssey through film

Mark David Welsh

Watching the strangest movies - so you don't have to...

Scenes from the Morgue

The Lost Art of Pulp Ads: Film, Booze, Smokes & More!

Film Speech

All things film and television

Diary of A Movie Maniac

A Personal Journey Through Cinema & Television

portraitsbyjenni

My perspective on life & Classic Movie Recommendations

Statis Pro 1978 Replay

Methodically replaying every game of the 1978 baseball season!

4 Star Films

Looking deeper at the best classic movies

everythingnoir

Movies, Television, Books....Everything Noir

Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd film locations (and more)

by John Bengtson "the great detective of silent film locations" New York Times

Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live

Silent-ology

Uncovering the silent era

Canadian Cinephile

"The only way to get rid of my fears is to make films about them." - Alfred Hitchcock

Noirish

The annex to John Grant's *A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir*

Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Sunset Boulevard

Writings of a Cinephile

The Bogie Film Blog

A Film by Film Affair with Humphrey Bogart

Vienna's Classic Hollywood

Vintage Hollywood films and stars

The Film Authority

You're ten seconds from watching an amazing film...

Once upon a screen...

...a classic film and TV blog

shadowsandsatin

. . where the worlds of film noir and pre-code collide . .

hitchcockmaster

Where Suspense Lives!

Tipping My Fedora

Enjoying mystery, crime and suspense in all media

Silver Screenings

an irreverent blog of old movies

monsterminions

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

Comet Over Hollywood

Home for classic movie lovers

filmgeek101

classic movie views for the classic and not-so-classic movie fan

Riding the High Country

Reviews and ramblings

Speakeasy

watching movies

%d bloggers like this: