(Original Caption) John Wayne as he appeared in the film "The Big Trail." Photograph, 1930.
Movies - TV
John Wayne's The Big Trail Was Doomed By Cutting-Edge Camera Tech
1930's “The Big Trail” was an early, wildly pricey epic, directed by Raoul Walsh and starring John Wayne, that sought to revolutionize motion-picture exhibition at the very moment movie houses were haphazardly adjusting to the sound era. It was the first film to be shot and released in 70mm and fell short of most of its ambitions due to exhibitors' limitations.
In a 1976 interview with TV reporter Bobbie Wygant, Wayne said, “[The film] required the theater to put in a new screen and all new equipment in the projection room in those days because they hadn't invented the squeeze lens for the wide film. So, as a consequence, I guess maybe 10 theaters in the country played it because it was right in the middle of the Depression.”
There was a 35mm version of “The Big Trail” shot concurrently with the 70mm version, but it was, by most critical accounts, shorter and visually unimpressive. 20th Century Fox released the restored 70mm cut to Blu-ray in 2012, and while it is visually astonishing, the film's narrative takes a disappointing backseat to Walsh’s pioneering widescreen splendor.