The above pretty much sums up the movie's plot, a fairly slow-moving 89 minutes in which Douglas is ultimately converted by the steadfast Quakers, his love for a Quaker widow (Eve Miller), and his admiration for his former aide turned honest lawman (Edgar Buchanan). The final section of the film finds the reformed Douglas battling his former righthand man (John Archer) over the fate of "the big trees."
The movie is pleasant enough, with attractive location filming in Northern California and a solid cast, but it never really takes off; it just sort of moseys along and finally comes to an end. Even the action sequences are sort of ho-hum. The movie held my attention but never elicited much in the way of emotions.
I've got to admit that Kirk Douglas doesn't do anything for me as an actor, and that's a considerable drawback for the film given that he has so much screen time. I'm not sure if it's the actor himself or the abrasive characters he so often plays, but I'm always left cold by him. He's in a couple of movies I like due to other cast members -- for example, OUT OF THE PAST (1947) -- but he never engages me emotionally. That was the case again in THE BIG TREES, where I found him rather uninteresting, and his ultimate conversion only partly convincing.
Patrice Wymore (then Mrs. Errol Flynn) plays a saloon girl Douglas has been stringing along and using for a decade. She sings one dance hall number but otherwise it's a fairly limited role; her main purpose is to illustrate that Douglas is a heel and then to help deliver his comeuppance.
Eve Miller does fine as the widow who goes toe to toe with Douglas. A sequence where her cat engages in a cleverly engineered "Act of God" is the best part of the movie.
The supporting cast includes Roy Roberts, Ellen Corby, Alan Hale Jr., Lane Chandler, and Charles Meredith.
This film was directed by Felix E. Feist and filmed in Technicolor by Bert Glennon.
THE BIG TREES is a remake of VALLEY OF THE GIANTS, which had been filmed three times previously, most recently in 1938 with Wayne Morris and Claire Trevor. Some of the second unit footage in THE BIG TREES was lifted from the 1938 film, which was also filmed in Technicolor.
THE BIG TREES can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it will next air on Friday, August 30, 2013.
This Warner Bros. film seems to have fallen into the public domain. It was released on DVD by public domain specialist Alpha Video and has had at least one other DVD release by a different company. It was also released on VHS by more than one company.
I hope to give Douglas another chance later this month and attend a screening of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA (1954) at the Egyptian Theatre. The screening is part of a tribute to a Disney legend, production designer Harper Goff. 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA is one of the films on my list of 10 Classics to see in 2013 so it will be wonderful if I'm able to see it for the first time on a big screen.