Little Big Man

Dustin Hoffman as Little Big Man

One of my favorite movies is Little Big Man, a revisionist Western directed by Arthur Penn, based on the novel by Thomas Berger. It stars Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb, born in 1849. He is being interviewed in 1970 as a 121 year old man recollecting his life among both whites and Indians on the Great Plains. Hoffman’s voiceover as the ancient Crabb during the movie adds a dimension of both humor and tragedy as he describes what he is thinking and feeling on top of the regular dialog between the other characters. Jack and his sister are the only survivors of an Indian attack and are taken in by another tribe. His sister manages to escape while Jack is raised by the tribe for several years until he is captured by the U.S. Calvary and finds himself living in white civilization again. Several years go by and Jack tries and fails at several careers until he is again attacked by Indians who steal his wife. While searching for her he ends up back with the tribe that raised him. And so the story continues with Jack living back and forth between Indians and whites, encountering happiness and hardships but never really finding his place in the world. He encounters both Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer during his adventures and ends up as the only white survivor of The Battle of the Little Bighorn. The movie closes with the ancient Jack alone in his room pondering his long life. In 2014 Little Big Man was selected to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, joining the ranks of Citizen Cane, Star Wars and It’s A Wonderful Life, among many other great films. If you have not seen the movie, watch it. The book is pretty good, too.