Cast & Crew
In 1900, after a lumber mill deal in Wisconsin almost lands Jim Fallon in jail, he convinces a syndicate to support his effort to take over land in the Northern California redwood country. Due to an act of Congress, land claims filed under the Stone and Timber Act of 1865 are no longer valid, and Fallon proposes to claim the newly available timber illegally. To convince his men to go with him to California, even though he cannot pay them, Fallon concocts a false fight with a rival lumberman, which is stopped by a stranger named Yukon Burns. Impressed by Yukon's honest face, Fallon dispatches him to the area near Eureka, California, with instructions to scout the situation. When Fallon arrives in California with his timber boss, Frenchy LeCroix, he learns that Yukon has promised the homesteaders reimbursement for the full value of their land. Among the grateful settlers is a religious community headed by Elder Bixby. His widowed daughter, Alicia Chadwick, invites Fallon to dinner, at which she plans to demonstrate the sacred qualities of the giant sequoia. Later, when Fallon informs Yukon, whom he has nicknamed "Lucky," that he has no intention of paying the settlers for the land, Yukon threatens to end their arrangement, and Fallon pretends to back down. Alicia continues her attempt to persuade Fallon not to log the trees, but he is interested in her only as a romantic partner. When Fallon's men arrive in town, Yukon realizes that he intends to give each one the money necessary to file a claim, then take over all the land himself. Yukon, who has come to like the settlers, then demands Fallon's money at gunpoint. Fallon wins the ensuing fistfight and offers Yukon money to return to Alaska, but he decides to stay and help the homesteaders fight Fallon. Later Fallon quarrels with Frenchy, and Cleve Gregg, a rival timberman, offers the timber boss a job with him. Meanwhile, Yukon, who is now the town marshal, tries to rouse the community to fight Fallon, but they refuse to use violence against him. Alicia and Yukon then contrive an "accident" to destroy the claims filed by Fallon's men, and use the resulting delay to cut and sell enough of the smaller trees to earn the money to file for the land themselves. Fallon accuses them of cutting trees on land they do not own, but after they plead guilty, Judge Crenshaw sentences them to thirty days hard labor cutting trees on government land. When Fallon's funds run out, and his men demand payment, Frenchy suggests that he form a partnership with Gregg. As a safeguard, Fallon asks his old lover, Daisy Fisher, to buy the local dam under her real name, Dora Figg. Now that he controls the dam, the settlers cannot get their timber to market. At Frenchy's urging, Fallon's men start to cut the sequoia, and one falls on the Bixby cabin, killing Alicia's father. As head of the company, Fallon is arrested for murder, but Alicia, who is starting to fall in love with him, intervenes, stating that Fallon tried to save her father's life. Now Frenchy and his allies plot to kill Fallon, and one night, when Fallon and Yukon leave the hotel, shots are fired, killing Yukon. Angered by the death of his friend, Fallon sends for the judge and agrees to plead guilty to fraud to stop Frenchy and Gregg. However, when he asks Daisy to sign papers relinquishing her ownership of the dam, she reveals that she was tired of being used by Fallon and has already sold it to Frenchy. Fallon informs the homesteaders, and Alicia suggests that they use an old mining railroad on their property to bypass the dam. They deliver several loads before Frenchy's men cut through a trestle, and push an engine and caboose, in which Alicia is working, toward the bridge. Moments before the bridge collapses, Fallon separates the caboose from the train. Alicia is saved, but with the bridge destroyed, the remaining timber cannot be sold. Fallon finally convinces the settlers to blow up the dam. Frenchy dies in the explosion, and a reformed Fallon marries Alicia and settles on the land which remains in the hands of the homesteaders.
Alan Hale Jr.
G. W. Bernsten
Louis F. Edelman
Leslie G. Hewitt
M. K. Jerome
H. F. Koenekamp
Maurice De Packh
James R. Webb
The Big Trees
A loose reworking of William Keighley's Valley of the Giants (1938), an adaptation of the Peter B. Kyne novel by the same name, The Big Trees recycled not only plot points from the earlier film but also some of its Technicolor establishing shots in which sharp-eyed viewers can spot Valley of the Giants star Wayne Morris. Shot on location in Williams Grove and Orick, California, The Big Trees found its star unenthusiastic about playing a rakish redwood lumber entrepreneur distracted by domestic problems. Divorced from first wife Diana Dill, mother to sons Michael and Joel, the actor was involved in a volatile relationship with Standard Oil heiress Irene Wrightsman that was disintegrating due to infidelities on both sides. While Douglas slaved away in stiff 19th century costumes through the summer of 1951, rumors reached him that Wrightsman was engaging in booze-fueled orgies, bedding both men and women in his absence.
Despite Douglas' personal preoccupations and disdain for the material, The Big Trees remains an entertaining, if minor line item on the actor's diverse curriculum vitae. His initially unscrupulous and ultimately heroic businessman, Jim Fallon, compares favorably with Chuck Tatum, the manipulative newsman of Ace in the Hole, and Jonathan Shields, the sh*theel film producer Douglas would go on to play as a free agent in Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful (1952). Too dedicated and exacting a craftsman to merely phone in his performance, Douglas persuasively etches Fallon's rise and fall from con man to family man; betrayed by former lover Patrice Wymore to villainous colleague John Archer, he finds redemption in the unconditional love of Quaker Eve Miller and helps militarize her brethren against the encroachment of big business, pointing The Tall Trees to a literally explosive conclusion.
Despite its seeming anti-industry stance, The Big Trees was made with the cooperation of, and on properties belonging to, the Hammond and Carlotta Lumber Companies. Students from Humboldt State University in nearby Arcata, California, were recruited to flesh out the ranks of the Quaker congregation and to sing as members of its choir. Douglas' leading ladies Eve Miller and Patrice Wymore had short-lived Hollywood careers, with Miller reduced to bits in There's No Business Like Show Business (1954) and Artists and Models (1955) - the Los Angeles native committed suicide in 1973 - and Wymore remembered more for being the last wife of Errol Flynn than for her work in films, on television or in live theatre.
Despite the price to his savings account, Douglas' bid to leave Warner Brothers in his dust proved a sound business decision. He enjoyed some of the better roles of his career during the ensuing years - traveling to Israel for The Juggler (1953), to Italy and North Africa for Ulysses (1954), to the Bahamas for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), to France and the Netherlands for Lust for Life (1956), to Bavaria for Paths of Glory (1957) and to Norway and Croatia for The Vikings (1958), accumulating two Academy Award nominations along the way and emerging by the end of the decade a bona fide international movie star with the staying power of a giant redwood.
Producer: Louis F. Edelman
Director: Felix Feist
Screenplay: John Twist, James R. Webb, Kenneth Earl (story)
Music: Heinz Roemheld
Cinematography: Bert Glennon
Editor: Clarence Kolster
Cast: Kirk Douglas (Jim Fallon), Eve Miller (Alicia Chadwick), Patrice Wymore (Daisy Fisher/Dora Figg), Edgar Buchanan (Yukon), John Archer (Frenchy), Alan Hale, Jr. (Tiny), Ellen Corby (Sister Blackburn).
by Richard Harland Smith
The Ragman's Son: An Autobiography by Kirk Douglas (Simon &U Schuster, 1988)
The Films of Kirk Douglas by Tony Thomas (Citadel Press, 1991)
The Big Trees
It's lucky for you that I only learned how to write, not read.- Daisy Fisher
The Big Trees was filmed on location in Williams Grove near Eureka, CA, the town of Orrick, CA and at properties belonging to the Carlotta Lumber Co. and the Hammond Lumber Co. According to studio press information in the production file on the film in the AMPAS Library, students from Humboldt State College played some of the parts of religious colonists and sang in the choir. The Daily Variety review noted that the picture incorporated footage, and certain plot elements, from the 1938 Warner Bros. film Valley of the Giants (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, July 1953 Hollywood Reporter news items add Cliff Lyons, Don Turner, Lane Chandler, William Vincent and Frank Hagney to the cast. A radio version of the film aired on Lux Radio Theatre on November 2, 1954, starring Van Heflin and Nancy Gates in the Kirk Douglas and Eve Miller roles.
Released in United States 1952
Released in United States 1952