AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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So Big
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
Release Date:   30 Apr 1932
Production Date:   mid-Jan--mid-Feb 1932
Duration (in mins):   80 or 82-83
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Barbara Stanwyck (Selina Peake)  
    George Brent (Roelf Pool)  
    Dickie Moore (Dirk, as a boy ["So Big"])  
    Bette Davis (Dallas O'Mara)  
    Mae Madison (Julie Hemple)  
    Hardie Albright (Dirk, grown)  
    Alan Hale (Klaus Pool)  
    Earle Fox (Pervus De Jong)  
    Robert Warwick (Simeon Peake)  
    Dorothy Peterson (Maartje)  
    Noel Francis    
    Dick Winslow (Roelf, age 14)  
    Guy Kibbee (August Hemple)  
    Arthur Stone (Jan Steen)  
    Dawn O'Day (Selina, as a girl)  
    Harry Beresford (Adam Ooms)  
    Eulalie Jensen (Mrs. Hemple)  
    Elizabeth Patterson (Mrs. Tibbits)  
    Rita La Roy (Paula Storm)  
    Blanche Frederici (Widow Paarlenburg)  
    Willard Robertson (The doctor)  
    Martha Mattox (Maiden aunt)  
    Emma Ray (Maiden aunt)  
    Olin Howland (Jacob)  
    Andre Cheron (The General)  
    Harry Holman (Country doctor)  
    Lionel Belmore (Reverend Dekker)  

Summary: After her mother dies, Selina Peake's father takes her to Chicago, where she attends a finishing school. When her father is killed, leaving her penniless, Selina's friends learn that he was a gambler and drop her. Only Julie Hemple helps her, persuading her father, August Hemple, to get Selina a job as a schoolteacher in a small Dutch community near Chicago. There, Selina lives with a farm family, helping their adoring son Roelf with his lessons. Eventually, she marries farmer Pervus De Jong and gives birth to a son, Dirk, who becomes the center of all her hopes and dreams. As he grows, she measures him daily and nicknames him "So Big." Pervus dies, leaving Selina the struggling farm. Determined, she makes the farm pay, which enables Dirk to go away to school and eventually establish himself as an architect. Over the years, everyone comes to love the hardworking, idealistic Selina. Dirk, however, does not have his mother's strength. He falls in love with a married woman who persuades her husband to give him a job as a bond salesman in his office. He is embarrassed by his mother's farm, even though her excellent asparagus paid for his education. When he falls in love with Dallas O'Mara, a talented artist, she refuses to marry him because he is unwilling to work at something worth while. Meanwhile, Roelf has become a great sculptor. He meets Dirk, and learning that he is Selina's son, asks to see her again. At the meeting, Selina compares Roelf and Dirk, acknowledging her son's faults, while at the same time, rejoicing in Roelf's talent and good character. 

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
  The Vitaphone Corp.  
Director: William A. Wellman (Dir)
Writer: J. Grubb Alexander (Adpt)
  Robert Lord (Adpt)
Photography: Sid Hickox (Photog)
  Richard Towers (Cam op)
  Wesley Anderson (Asst cam)
Art Direction: Jack Okey (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Holmes (Ed)
Costumes: Earl Luick (Gowns)
Music: Leo F. Forbstein (Vitaphone Orch cond)
Sound: Robert Lee (Sd)
Production Misc: William Walling Jr. (Still photog)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novel So Big by Edna Ferber (Garden City, NY, 1924).
Authors: Edna Ferber

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 29/3/1932 dd/mm/yyyy LP2944

Physical Properties: Sd:

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Historical
Subjects (Major): Farmers
  Mothers and sons
Subjects (Minor): Architects
  Chicago (IL)
  Dutch Americans
  Love affairs
  Lure of riches
  United States--Midwest

Note: Edna Ferber's novel won the Pulitzer Prize. According to FD , Joseph Jackson wrote the adaptation with J. Grubb Alexander. The exact nature of his contribution to the final film has not been determined. Ferber's story was first filmed in 1924 by First National with star Colleen Moore, (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30 ; F2.5201). Warner Bros. remade the novel in 1953 with Jane Wyman as Selina. That version was directed by Robert Wise. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   1 May 32   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Mar 32   p. 2.
International Photographer   1 May 32   p. 32.
Motion Picture Herald   19 Mar 32   p. 42.
New York Times   30 Apr 32   p. 19.
Variety   3 May 32   p. 14.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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