Sunday, April 08, 2012

Little Big Man

Arthur Penn's Little Big Man (1970), based on Thomas Berger's 1964 novel of the same title, delivers a memorably consciousness raising story of the American West as recounted by a 121-year old man played by Dustin Hoffman. It plays to the charisma of Chief Dan George, who is also a hoot in Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976).

In making Little Big Man, Arthur Penn was creating fully within the spirit of the times -- compare this film with his equally impressive Bonnie and Clyde (1967). When Little Big Man came out, Marvin Gaye was nearly ready to release "What's Going On?," environmentally-minded people had celebrated the first Earth Day and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM, formed in 1968) had occupied the Mayflower II -- on Thanksgiving Day 1970, after painting Plymouth Rock red. The US-Vietnam War was another ongoing concern, and the grisly facts of the My Lai Massacre of 1968 were coming under closer global scrutiny. Little Big Man reflects these times well.  

Also floating around in the Zeitgeist of the 1960s were songs dealing with the Little Big Horn. Here are snippets from two of them:

Please Mr. Custer, I don't wanna go . . .

-- "Mr. Custer" -- Larry Vern,  #1 American hit single in 1960.

Now I will tell you buster that I ain't a fan of Custer
And the General he don't ride well anymore
To some he was a hero but to me his score was zero
And the General he don't ride well anymore . . .

-- "Custer" -- Johnny Cash (and Peter La Farge), Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian (1964)

Today's Rune: Fertility.


pattinase (abbott) said...

That original cover was something to behold.

jodi said...

Erik, some classics for sure! I loved Faye Dunaway in that beret and copy that look on occasion! Josey Wales is on my cable all the time. Go Clintster!