So big

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Original title So big
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1932
length 83 minutes
Director William A. Wellman
script J. Grubb Alexander , Robert Lord
production Warner Brothers
camera Sid Hickox
cut William Holmes

So Big is an American drama film starring Barbara Stanwyck and directed by William A. Wellman . It is the film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize- winning novel of the same name by Edna Ferber .


The young Selina Peake grows up without a mother. When her father also dies, the young woman, who would most like to study art history, is forced to accept the badly paid job as a teacher in a community inhabited by Dutch emigrants. Selina lives with the Pool family and takes care of her little son Roelf. One day she accepts the marriage proposal of the elderly farmer Pervus de Jong and has a son, Dirk, on whom she concentrates all her hopes and all her energy. Every day she places little Dirk at a tape measure. When he constantly asked how big he was, Selina replied with constant euphoria

So big.

After the death of Pervus, Selina has to fight bitterly to keep the farm. She saves every penny to give Dirk a good school education. It is your dream that Dirk will become an architect. Over the years, Selina gains the respect and recognition of the rest of the village. Dirk, however, is a complete disappointment for his mother in their eyes. He is hanging out with a married woman and despises his rural origins. In the meantime, Selina has discovered a niche in the market and is growing asparagus on a large scale, which she sells successfully in Chicago. It wasn't until Dirk got to know and love the young and talented artist Dallas O'Mara that things started to change in a positive direction. Dallas refuses to marry the aimless and uninspired Dirk. It speaks to his conscience and achieves a change in behavior. Shortly afterwards, Dirk meets the adult Roelf Pool, who has meanwhile become a successful sculptor. Together with Dallas, the men travel to visit Selina. She realizes that she has always secretly compared her son to Roelf and regrets her mistake. After a discussion, the future looks positive for everyone involved.


Edna Ferber was a very successful author who skillfully combined social criticism and entertainment in her works. Her novel So Big won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 and was made into a film that same year with Colleen Moore in the lead role.

The studio invested a relatively high budget in the adaptation and gave Stanwyck, who had been working for Warner Brothers since the previous year on the basis of a non-exclusive contract , a first-class group of supporting actors to the side. Dickie Moore was a popular child actor who would appear later that year as the son of Marlene Dietrich in Blonde Venus . George Brent had become a star with a number of good performances, and his rise has been compared to that of Clark Gable . The studio also used the young Bette Davis as Dallas O'Mara. It should be the only joint appearance by Davis, which was announced here under the title, but already in third place, and Stanwyck, the nominal star. Davis and Brent made ten more films together over the next few years. William Wellman later reported that Davis was extremely jealous of Stanwyck. She envied the barely older actress to be an established star. Stanwyck found that Davis tried everything to steal the shared scenes, but the actress was always helpful and supported Davis, who forgot her lines several times. Years later, she told film historian Laurence J. Quirk:

“She was always so ambitious, you just knew she would make it. She had a kind of resourceful selfishness that made her success inevitable. "

Barbara Stanwyck and William Wellman got together again immediately after filming was finished for The Purchase Price , which also told the hard life of farmers, but flopped at the box office. Warner Brothers filmed the story again in 1953 with Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden in the lead roles.


Most of the critics complained that too much action was pressed into too little running time.

There were few kind words to read in Variety

“Wellman's efforts to create kaleidoscopic excerpts from the life of Selina Dejong lead to a choppy narrative structure and make the 83-minute running time seem far too long. Overall, however, is a disjointed story. "

The New Yorker , on the other hand, explicitly praised Stanwyck.

"Barbara Stanwyck shows her best work ever in her portrayal of an American farmer."

The New York Mirror went in the same direction.

“Barbara Stanwyck is exquisite. Her great talent as an actress has never been so brilliant before. An excellent representation. She's gorgeous."

Bette Davis received her first positive review in the New York Times for her performance .

"Bette Davis, in the role of the young artist who understands the complicated living conditions of Selina, is unusually competent."


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Original review

  1. She was always so ambitious, you knew she'd make it. She had a kind of creative ruthlessness that made her success inevitable.
  2. Wellman's endeavor at kaleidoscopic flashes in the life of Selina Dejong [...] make for a choppy continuity [...] as it is, the 83 minutes are overly long, but in toto, it's a disjointed affair.
  3. In her impersonation of the American farmer's wife, Barbara Stanwyck does the best work she has yet shown us.
  4. Barbara Stanwyck is exquisite [...] Her great talent as an actress never has been demonstrated more brilliantly. A sparkling performance. She is magnificent.
  5. ^ Bette Davis, as the young artist who sees into the complicated story of Selina's life, is unusually competent.