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The Big Bonanza (1944)

Captain Jed Kelton (Richard Arlen), Union Army officer, unfairly tried for cowardice in battle during the Civil War, escapes from custody while being transported to Fort Leavenport in ... See full summary »


George Archainbaud


Dorrell McGowan (screenplay), Stuart E. McGowan (screenplay) (as Stuart McGowan) | 3 more credits »


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Complete credited cast:
Richard Arlen ... Captain Jed Kilton
Robert Livingston ... Sam Ballou
Jane Frazee ... Chiquita McSweeney
George 'Gabby' Hayes ... Hap Selby
Lynne Roberts ... Judy Parker
Bobby Driscoll ... Spud Kilton
J.M. Kerrigan ... Judge Jasper Kincaid
Russell Simpson ... Adam Parker
Frank Reicher ... Dr. Ballou
Cordell Hickman Cordell Hickman ... Abraham
Hayward Soo Hoo ... Jimmy
Roy Barcroft ... Sheriff Dan Pendleton
Fred Kohler Jr. ... Henchman Roberts
Monte Hale ... Saloon Singer


Captain Jed Kelton (Richard Arlen), Union Army officer, unfairly tried for cowardice in battle during the Civil War, escapes from custody while being transported to Fort Leavenport in Kansas. After a brief visit home, Jed and his grizzled old friend, Hap Shelby (George "Gabby" Hayes), go to Nevada Springs, Nevada, where Spud (Bobby Driscoll), the eight-year-old brother who idolizes Jed, is living with Sam Ballou (Robert Livingston), Jed's best friend in their early boyhood days, Jed finds that Sam is now owner of the Silver Queen saloon and dance hall. Sam is greedy for wealth and power, and not particular how he gets it, even at the expense of others. Chiquata McSweeney (Jane Frazee), beautiful singing star at the Silver Queen, and sweetheart of Sam, is sincerely fond of young Spud, but Jed thinks that a saloon is the wrong place to keep a child and he arranges for Spud to live at the home of Judy Parker (Lynne Roberts), the well-bred Sunday School teacher whose father, Adam Parker (... Written by Les Adams <longhorn1939@sudddenlink.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


PACKED With SUSPENSE and THRILLS of frontier adventure! See more »


Passed | See all certifications »






Release Date:

30 December 1944 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Grande Bonança See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Richard Arlen and Bobby Driscoll play brothers in this film despite a nearly 40-year difference in their ages. See more »


Spud Kilton: [Spud is keen to introduce his friends to his big brother, the Army man] I want you to meet my brother, Jed. Jed, this is Jimmy.
Captain Jed Kilton: Hello, Jimmy.
Spud Kilton: His mother and father are Chinese.
Jimmy: Yes.
Spud Kilton: [then he turns to his black friend] And this is Abraham.
Abraham: My ma and pa are Republicans.
[everyone laughs]
See more »


Rock of Ages
Music by Thomas Hastings
Lyrics by Augustus Montague Toplady
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User Reviews

MIght have worked for Roy Rogers
19 March 2014 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

Richard Arlen joined the ranks of Republic's cowboy heroes in a story set in Civil War times. The Big Bonanza opens with Arlen still in handcuffs having escaped the custody of the Union Army which was going to court martial him for cowardice. He and Gabby Hayes go west to be with his little brother Bobby Driscoll who has gone for a dryer climate. It's what was done back in the day with consumption patients.

With that charge over his head Arlen and Hayes go to Nevada City where Driscoll is in the care of saloon owner Robert Livingston and saloon songstress Jane Frazee. Even though he and Livingston are old pals, Arlen isn't crazy about the moral influence on the kid being raised in a saloon.

He takes Driscoll over to Sunday School teacher Lynne Roberts and her dad Russell Simpson who owns the Big Bonanza mine. It's there that Arlen learns his old pal Livingston is the organizer of a gang threatening mine owners and ranchers.

Arlen's not quite the Republic cowboy hero image and having him and Driscoll as brothers is ridiculous, there's more than 40 years between them. What might have worked for Roy Rogers in the same part looks dumb with Arlen.

As for Livingston we're led to believe that he cares for young Bobby. But when Bobby witnesses a murder by two of Livingston's henchmen all of a sudden Livingston's for killing a child that he's supposed to care about. Made no sense at all.

I'm sure this was something that might have been meant for Roy Rogers, but he was now doing modern westerns and this was passed to a visiting Arlen at Republic Studios. Maybe Roy was right to pass.

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