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So Big Reviews

This is the fourth go-around for Edna Ferber's sprawling novel. The first was a silent, then there was a short, then the 1932 Stanwyck version, and finally this one, which was the best of the lot. It encompasses 25 years in Wyman's life and it is a tribute to the makeup crew that they were able to pull it off. Wyman is from a well-to-do family and, when she is suddenly poor, she takes a job in a Dutch community in Illinois as a teacher, meets and marries Hayden and helps him with the arduous farm labors, tasks that she was hardly raised to do. They have a son, Rettig (who would go on to become famous as Lassie's best pal), who eventually grows up to be Forrest. Meanwhile, she makes friends with Beymer, a gifted young lad who aspires to be a pianist. He matures into Coy. Forrest has an eye for architecture but a penchant for money, so he eschews the creative art for a position with a merchandise company where he works as a sales promotion executive, over the protestations of Wyman, who knows that her son is artistically talented and feels that he is wasting his time pursuing money. Coy (in a role that was originally an artist) is Wyman's best friend, a man true to his calling, and she finds in him a surrogate child who understands that money isn't everything and that ars gratia artis should triumph. Forrest meets Olson, an artist trained in Paris, and she helps the floundering youth make his decision in favor of the far more rewarding, though not as commercial, world of Frank Lloyd Wright's breakthrough architecture. A good production, but a bit inflated, SO BIG commits the same error as the 1932 picture in that it stuffs a quarter of a century and many characters into not enough time. This was Beymer's second film, after INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE, in a spotty acting career that he eventually gave up to become an independent filmmaker and cinematographer. In a small role as a disciplinarian farmer, note Roland Winters, who, well into his eighties, was still working in between stints at his favorite haunt, the Players Club, at New York's Gramercy Park. He was the third Charlie Chan.