Little Big Man

Director: Arthur Penn
Screenwriters: Thomas Berger, Calder Willingham

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


If Penn was looking for an American metaphor for the topsy-turvy sixties, he could scarcely have found a better one than Thomas Berger's portrait of the western frontier at the end of the nineteenth century, Little Big Man. Narrated by 121-year-old Jack Crabb [Dustin Hoffman] "the sale white survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn," the film paints a blackly comic picture of a society in transition with its values in an uproar.

At the heart of the film is the treachery which colored white treatment of the Indians. Crabb's adoption into the Cheyenne tribe as a boy gives him a unique vantage point to observe and comment on Indian-white relations. Here he learns Indian philosophy and how to be a "human being," as the Cheyennes call themselves, from his wise "grandfather," Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George, in an alternately moving and hilarious performance).

Key to Crabb's character is his passivity; he is the ultimate opportunist. As Roger Ebert says of Little Big Man, "its hero is no hero at all but merely a survivor," acontinuation of Penn's penchant for antiheroes and outsiders. The film features marvelous cameos by Faye Dunaway and Martin Balsam.

Sunday Jan 23 9:30 pm
Park City Library Center

Tuesday Jan 25 1:40 pm
Holiday Village Cinema III


— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

  • Section: Challenge and Innovation: A Tribute to Arthur Penn
  • Film Type: Dramatic Feature
  • Country: U.S.A.
  • Run Time: 149 min.
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