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Big Boy (1930)

Passed | | Comedy, Musical | 11 September 1930 (USA)
Gus, the trusty family retainer, has hopes of riding his boss' horse, Big Boy, to victory at the Kentucky Derby.

Director:

Alan Crosland

Writers:

Harold Atteridge (based on a musical comedy by), Billy K. Wells (screen play & dialogue by) (as William K. Wells) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Al Jolson ... Gus
Claudia Dell ... Annabel
Louise Closser Hale ... Mother
Lloyd Hughes ... Jack
Eddie Phillips ... Coley Reed
Lew Harvey Lew Harvey ... Doc Wilbur
Franklin Batie Franklin Batie ... Jim
John Harron ... Joe
Tom Wilson ... Tucker
Colin Campbell Colin Campbell ... Steve Leslie
Noah Beery ... Bagby
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Hall Johnson Choir Hall Johnson Choir ... Chorus of slave hands
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Storyline

Gus, the trusty family retainer, has hopes of riding his boss' horse, Big Boy, to victory at the Kentucky Derby.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Musical

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

11 September 1930 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Deteto na zatvornika See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Vitaphone

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was the first of two Jolson Broadway vehicles to be filmed; the other was Wonder Bar (1934). See more »

Soundtracks

The Handicap March
(1895) (uncredited)
Music by George Rosey
Lyrics by Dave Reed Jr.
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Al Jolson Stars In Unusual Film
4 June 2002 | by Ron OliverSee all my reviews

If faithful Gus can only help the racehorse BIG BOY to win the Kentucky Derby the white folks who employ him will be saved from financial ruin.

Strange, offbeat, bizarre, unique. All of these terms can describe this film which features legendary entertainer Al Jolson in blackface, playing a black man. While acted with tongue very firmly planted in cheek, and meant solely for lighthearted entertainment, this movie will definitely not be to every viewer's taste. Not until the final minutes does Jolson appear as himself, joking with the audience and reprising the film's dullest song yet once again.

The movie obviously has its roots in the minstrel tradition in which a group of musical white men would perform, made-up as blacks. Also, Jolson's own career involved extensive use of blackface routines and he had become quite celebrated for them. For their time, these were all considered quite normal and not offensive (to white audiences). It should also be noted that racial meandering was engaged in routinely in films for decades, with several top white stars (Helen Hayes, Paul Muni, Kate Hepburn, Ramon Novarro, Edward G. Robinson) playing Asian roles, although these were usually done for a serious, and not a comedic, purpose.

Once past the initial oddity, it must be said that Jolson is certainly fun to watch and is obviously having a great time. Singing constantly (none of his big hits, but he does well with a couple of old Spirituals), wisecracking and ad-libbing shamelessly, he is impossible to ignore. In his heyday, he was one of the most popular performers in the world and it's easy to see why.

Although Jolson dominates the film, there are a couple of other performers worth noting. Wonderful old character actress Louise Closser Hale, always a joy to watch, plays the plantation matriarch. In a lengthy & superfluous flashback scene, beefy Noah Beery appears as a bullying braggadocio who harasses Jolson.

It probably goes without saying that there is a fair amount of racism woven into the plot.


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