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S. Sylvan Simon
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Big Jack turned out to be the swan song for Wallace Beery one of the mainstays of MGM ever since the era of sound. If Big Jack isn't the best film Wallace Beery ever did it certainly will provide the film historian and fan with what would most assuredly be called a typical Wallace Beery role.
The film is set in the Jacksonian era of American history with Beery leading a pack of bandits. On an impulse he rescues Richard Conte from a lynching party and since he's been wounded the fact that Conte is a doctor comes in handy.
But what Conte is being lynched for is stealing dead bodies from graves to use in experiments. Conte is a scientist and while he's not conducting Frankenstein like experiments, those are the fears of the local populace. And while grave robbing is not a hanging offense, that's not an argument to make to those people whose loved one's corpses are being experimented on.
Marjorie Main teamed with Wallace Beery for many films, she was his most frequent screen partner after Marie Dressler died. Beery and Main worked well together and Big Jack is a great example of their chemistry.
Wallace Beery was also a great example of the screen image totally being the opposite of the man. In real life Beery was a miserly and misanthropic individual who few would ever have said a kind word about. Far from the lovable lug that he was best known for after his Oscar winning performance in The Champ.
Beery with his hair grown long for the part, did not look well at all during the film. While Big Jack will never be classified as one of his great films, it's a good example of the appeal that Wallace Beery had with the American movie-going public.
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