A Big Hand for the Little Lady


1h 35m 1966
A Big Hand for the Little Lady

Brief Synopsis

A pioneer woman replaces her ailing husband in a poker game after he loses most of their money.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
Houston opening: 31 May 1966
Production Company
Eden Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "Big Deal in Laredo" by Sidney Carroll (NBC, 7 Oct 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

In 1896, the five richest men in the Laredo territory are entrenched in the back room of a saloon for their annual poker game. Seated at the table are Henry Drummond, who walked out on his daughter's wedding rather than be late for the game; Benson Tropp, a woman-hating undertaker; Otto Habershaw, a dapper lawyer who, in order not to miss the game, abandoned a client facing hanging; Dennis Wilcox, a wealthy cattleman; and Jesse Buford, a miserly local merchant. The game is still going the next day when Meredith, a timid farmer who has sworn to give up gambling, arrives in town with his wife, Mary, and their young son Jackie. While Mary goes to have their damaged wagon repaired, Meredith watches the men play cards. Unable to resist temptation, he takes his homestead money and joins the game; but by the time Mary returns, he needs an additional $500 to stay in the game. The excitement and suspense, coupled with Mary's indignation, prove too much for Meredith's heart, and he collapses. Doc Scully is summoned, and Meredith is removed from the game, but not before asking Mary to play out his hand. Although she knows nothing about poker, Mary staunchly agrees to protect the family money. She uses her poker hand as collateral and asks banker C. P. Ballinger for a loan. The other players' amused looks turn to stunned disbelief when the banker accepts the offer and raises the bet $5,000 per player. Unable to compete, the men throw in their cards and leave Mary with $16,000. They are comforted only by knowing that they have lost to a gallant and courageous woman. The men are unaware, however, that both Meredith and Mary are professional gamblers and that Ballinger and Doc Scully concocted the whole plot to cheat the big-time gamblers.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Western
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1966
Premiere Information
Houston opening: 31 May 1966
Production Company
Eden Productions
Distribution Company
Warner Bros. Pictures
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the teleplay "Big Deal in Laredo" by Sidney Carroll (NBC, 7 Oct 1962).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

A Big Hand for the Little Lady


The stakes were high and so was the star power in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966). Director Fielder Cook, known mostly for his TV work (Patterns (1956), the 1966 Emmy Award-winning version of Brigadoon), plays out a hand of aces in only his second feature outing, with a cast that includes Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Joanne Woodward, Charles Bickford and Burgess Meredith. And that's just to start. The lucky draw runs deep, with a second-to-none supporting cast of trump cards like Paul Ford as the local banker and Kevin McCarthy as a love-struck poker player.

Fielder also directed the original teleplay, Big Deal in Laredo (1963), on which A Big Hand for the Little Lady was based. The teleplay (along with the later big-screen adaptation) was penned by Sidney Carroll for the DuPont Show of the Week. Both Carroll and Fielder received Emmy nominations for their hand in Big Deal in Laredo, along with another familiar name - Walter Matthau. Matthau was nominated for an Emmy for Best Single Performance by an Actor (presumably for the role Henry Fonda would take to the big screen), but sadly, no record of this live performance exists. As Jason Robards later said it, television in those days was "like a one-night stand."

But perhaps the biggest star of A Big Hand for the Little Lady is the poker game itself. While there are no violent gun battles in this Western, the card game at the center of the film is just as suspenseful as a shootout. Of course this is no ordinary poker hand. It's a sure winner - so big that it causes one player to have a heart attack and another to secure a bank loan. Fielder captures the tension of the game masterfully, every draw a life or death situation that leaves the audience holding its breath. And that's no small feat considering that most of the movie takes place in the back room of a saloon, without an outlaw or a gunfight in sight. But A Big Hand for the Little Lady is a comedy at heart. The surprise ending lets us in on the joke and makes a second viewing of the movie even more amusing.

Movie buffs will want to keep a sharp lookout for silent screen veteran Chester Conklin, who appeared with Charlie Chaplin in many of his Keystone comedies, not to mention his role in Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924). Conklin makes his last film appearance here, billed in the credits as simply "Old Man in Saloon" (whose name just happens to be Chester). And there's a cameo by Mae Clarke, a leading lady in the '30s. Clarke's most memorable role was probably opposite James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931). She's the gangster's moll who receives the old grapefruit in the face courtesy of Cagney. Clarke went on to play the bride of Frankenstein (1931) opposite Colin Clive and to co-star in several other 1931 successes like Waterloo Bridge and The Front Page. But Clarke's career fizzled fast, reducing the actress to bit parts, walk-ons and B movies. Her final leading role came in King of the Rocket Men (1949). In A Big Hand for the Little Lady, look fast and you might recognize Clarke, in her second-to-last film appearance, as Mrs. Craig, the woman at the bank window.

Producer/Director: Fielder Cook
Screenplay: Sidney Carroll
Production Design: Robert Emmet Smith
Cinematography: Lee Garmes
Film Editing: George Rohrs
Original Music: David Raksin
Principal Cast: Henry Fonda (Meredith), Joanne Woodward (Mary), Jason Robards, Jr. (Henry Drummond), Charles Bickford (Benson Tropp), Burgess Meredith (Doc Scully), Paul Ford (C.P. Ballinger), Kevin McCarthy (Otto Habershaw), Robert Middleton (Dennis Wilcox).
C-95m.

By Stephanie Thames
A Big Hand For The Little Lady

A Big Hand for the Little Lady

The stakes were high and so was the star power in A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966). Director Fielder Cook, known mostly for his TV work (Patterns (1956), the 1966 Emmy Award-winning version of Brigadoon), plays out a hand of aces in only his second feature outing, with a cast that includes Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Joanne Woodward, Charles Bickford and Burgess Meredith. And that's just to start. The lucky draw runs deep, with a second-to-none supporting cast of trump cards like Paul Ford as the local banker and Kevin McCarthy as a love-struck poker player. Fielder also directed the original teleplay, Big Deal in Laredo (1963), on which A Big Hand for the Little Lady was based. The teleplay (along with the later big-screen adaptation) was penned by Sidney Carroll for the DuPont Show of the Week. Both Carroll and Fielder received Emmy nominations for their hand in Big Deal in Laredo, along with another familiar name - Walter Matthau. Matthau was nominated for an Emmy for Best Single Performance by an Actor (presumably for the role Henry Fonda would take to the big screen), but sadly, no record of this live performance exists. As Jason Robards later said it, television in those days was "like a one-night stand." But perhaps the biggest star of A Big Hand for the Little Lady is the poker game itself. While there are no violent gun battles in this Western, the card game at the center of the film is just as suspenseful as a shootout. Of course this is no ordinary poker hand. It's a sure winner - so big that it causes one player to have a heart attack and another to secure a bank loan. Fielder captures the tension of the game masterfully, every draw a life or death situation that leaves the audience holding its breath. And that's no small feat considering that most of the movie takes place in the back room of a saloon, without an outlaw or a gunfight in sight. But A Big Hand for the Little Lady is a comedy at heart. The surprise ending lets us in on the joke and makes a second viewing of the movie even more amusing. Movie buffs will want to keep a sharp lookout for silent screen veteran Chester Conklin, who appeared with Charlie Chaplin in many of his Keystone comedies, not to mention his role in Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924). Conklin makes his last film appearance here, billed in the credits as simply "Old Man in Saloon" (whose name just happens to be Chester). And there's a cameo by Mae Clarke, a leading lady in the '30s. Clarke's most memorable role was probably opposite James Cagney in The Public Enemy (1931). She's the gangster's moll who receives the old grapefruit in the face courtesy of Cagney. Clarke went on to play the bride of Frankenstein (1931) opposite Colin Clive and to co-star in several other 1931 successes like Waterloo Bridge and The Front Page. But Clarke's career fizzled fast, reducing the actress to bit parts, walk-ons and B movies. Her final leading role came in King of the Rocket Men (1949). In A Big Hand for the Little Lady, look fast and you might recognize Clarke, in her second-to-last film appearance, as Mrs. Craig, the woman at the bank window. Producer/Director: Fielder Cook Screenplay: Sidney Carroll Production Design: Robert Emmet Smith Cinematography: Lee Garmes Film Editing: George Rohrs Original Music: David Raksin Principal Cast: Henry Fonda (Meredith), Joanne Woodward (Mary), Jason Robards, Jr. (Henry Drummond), Charles Bickford (Benson Tropp), Burgess Meredith (Doc Scully), Paul Ford (C.P. Ballinger), Kevin McCarthy (Otto Habershaw), Robert Middleton (Dennis Wilcox). C-95m. By Stephanie Thames

Quotes

That's a bargain all right, but a bargain ain't a bargain unless it's something you need.
- Jesse Buford
I'm not in the thinking business.
- Sam Rhine, Hotel Owner
I wouldn't play poker with Henry Drummond if his back was to a mirror! Even if I had the money!
- Sparrow the Stagedriver

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States on Video February 20, 1991

Released in United States Summer May 31, 1966

Released in United States on Video February 20, 1991

Released in United States Summer May 31, 1966