Little Big Man

Western | English | 139 minutes


In 1970, 121 year-old Jack Crabb, living in a hospice, recounts to a visiting historian his incredible life. Jack’s story begins when he and his sister survive an Indian massacre. They are both taken by Shadow, a Cheyenne brave, to the Cheyenne camp. Caroline escapes but Jack remains and is reared by the good-hearted tribal leader, Old Lodge Skins.  Jack saves the life of another tribesman and is given the name, Little Big Man, because he is short and brave. When Jack is 16, he is captured by the U.S. Cavalry and renounces his Cheyenne upbringing in order to save himself. Jack now has many eye-opening experiences: he becomes an apprentice with Allardyce T. Meriweather, a snake-oil salesman, meets Wild Bill Hickok,  and even tries his hand as a gunslinger. General George Armstrong Custer hires Jack as a scout but Custer and his men are slaughtered by the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Big Horn. Jack survives and is carried  by one of the braves to the Cheyenne camp. Jack reacquaints with Old Lodge Skins who is now elderly, feeble, and prepared to die. Jack accompanies Old Lodge Skins to the Cheyenne burial grounds where Old Lodge Skins chants while offering his life to the Great Spirit. But he doesn’t succumb. Old Lodge Skins sighs as he tells Jack,  “Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn’t.” They both return to the camp to have dinner.  

Dustin Hoffman (Jack Crabb/Little Big Man) / Chief Dan George (Old Lodge Skins) / Richard Mulligan (General George Armstrong Custer) / Martin Balsam (Allardyce T. Meriweather) / Jeff Corey (Wild Bill Hickok)
Why Stream This Film?
It’s one of the most unconventional and revisionist films Westerns ever made. Little Big Man brilliantly uses elements of satire and tragedy to examine prejudice and injustice.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 96%
  • Metacritic Score: 63
  • Academy Awards: Nominated, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Chief Dan George)
  • Golden Globes: Nominated, Best Supporting Actor (Chief Dan George)
  • Writers Guild of America: Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium (Calder Willingham)
  • Little Big Man was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. 
It is the very folksiness of director Arthur Penn’s film that makes it such a perceptive and important statement about Indians, the West, and the American dream. There’s no stridency, no preaching, no deep-voiced narrators making sure we got the point of the massacre. LITTLE BIG MAN gives us the flavor of the Cheyenne nation before white men brought uncivilization to the West
Roger Ebert

LITTLE BIG MAN is Arthur Penn’s most extravagant and ambitious movie, an attempt to capture the essence of the American heritage in the funny, bitter, uproarious adventures of Jack Crabb, an irritable, 120-odd year-old gentleman who may or may not have been the sole survivor of Custer’s Last Stand.
Vincent Canby

The New York Times

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