Recounting how the West was won through the eyes of a white man raised as a Native American, Arthur Penn's 1970 adaptation of Thomas Berger's satirical novel was a comic yet stinging allegory about the bloody results of American imperialism. As a misguided 20th-century historian listens, 121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) narrates the story ...
Recounting how the West was won through the eyes of a white man raised as a Native American, Arthur Penn's 1970 adaptation of Thomas Berger's satirical novel was a comic yet stinging allegory about the bloody results of American imperialism. As a misguided 20th-century historian listens, 121-year-old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) narrates the story of being the only white survivor of Custer's Last Stand. White orphan Crabb was adopted by the Cheyenne, renamed "Little Big Man," and raised in the ways of the "Human Beings" by paternal mentor Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George), accepting non-conformity and living peacefully with nature. Violently thrust into the white world, Jack meets a righteous preacher (Thayer David) and his wife (Faye Dunaway), tries to be a gunfighter under the tutelage of Wild Bill Hickock (Jeff Corey), and gets married. Returned to the Cheyenne by chance, Jack prefers life as a Human Being. The carnage wreaked by the white man in the Washita massacre and the lethal fallout from the egomania of General George A. Custer (Richard Mulligan) at Little Big Horn, however, show Crabb the horrific implications of Old Lodge Skins' sage observation, "There is an endless supply of White Men, but there has always been a limited number of Human Beings." Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
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TITLE: Little Big Man
GENRE: Epic Western
CAST: Dustin Hoffman, Chief Dan George, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Richard Mulligan, Carole Androsky, Jeff Corey, Kelly Jean Peters
PLOT: A 120 year old recalls for a disbelieving reporter the true story of what it was to be an American Indian during the second half of the 19th century when they were almost obliterated by the movement of the 'white' man into the west. Chief Dan George's character sums up the predicament excellently, " You can't get rid of the white man, they just keep coming. There are too many of them."
In the retelling, Hoffman's character, Jack Crabb, stumbles into more ways of looking at living than does Lemuel Gulliver. As such, to further recount the plot would expose some of the beautifully constructed vignets we are treated to. See it.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT: 9 of 10; Hoffman, in Jack Crabb's 120 yr old voice, narrates the movie, a performance in itself which should have earned him an Oscar. Other Hoffman offering's: as a young man in The Graduate (to which there is homage paid in a scene of Dunaway enticing Jack into her boudoir straight from Bancroft's image on the cover to The Graduate; As a Woman in Tootsie as another man in Rain Man; but this is his best performance. This is also some of where the references to "GENERAL" Custer comes from. In part I think to play up the Mulligan take on the ego-maniacal Indian killer and to highlight that he presents himself to others with a rank higher than he really holds, Lieutenant Colonel. The sets and costumes are perfectly done.