Turner Classic Movies
A Big Hand for the Little Lady DVD
Written by Diana Saenger   

a_big_hand_for_a_little_lady.jpgA Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966) is not a typical gun-slinging western but more a of character study of several members of a small town who gather yearly for a poker game. These players - Henry Fonda, Jason Robards, Burgess Meredith, Paul Ford, Robert Middleton, Charles Bickford, John Qualen and Kevin McCarthy - are so dedicated to this game they give up or forsake a number of important duties to play. Rules are key, and never would a lady (Joanne Woodward) be allowed in the room.

Robards, McCarthy, Bickford, Qualen

Eyes roll in the saloon when a family walks in looking for a room for the night. Meredith (Fonda), his wife Mary (Woodward), and their young son Jackie (Jean-Michel Michenaud) are on their way to San Antonio to build a new home. Sam reluctantly gives them a key, but when Meredith watches him exchange a large sum of money for poker chips and head towards the back room, he's suddenly more interested in the poker game than catching up on his sleep.

Fonda, Woodward, Jean-Michel Michenaud

Mary knows the look too well, and cautions her husband to not even think about going in there. He convinces her that he only wants to watch and she reluctantly agrees to take the wagon down the street for a repair. But first she tells Jackie to stay with his father and make sure he doesn't get in the game.

abighandlittlelady-jmm2.jpgThe intrigue bills as Meredith, played nervously by Fonda, convinces the guys to let him play. Meanwhile Jackie attempts to honor his mother's demand, but Dad is not listening. One of my favorite shots in the film is of a wide-eyed Jean-Michel Michenaud peering over the table looking at the cards. This adorable child actor starred in film and television roles while growing up and then became a producer.

Burgess Meredith
When Mary returns to the saloon, she discovers Meredith holding what he claims is a for-sure winning hand. And he's taken all of their cash out of the bag. The problem is he needs more to stay in the game. She's spitting mad, but then he has a heart attack and collapses.  Joseph "Doc" Scully (Burgess Meredith), comes to his rescue and whisks him off to take care of him.

Not wanting to lose out on the $20,000 pot and against the objections of the other players (women aren't allowed in the room much less the game), Mary insists on playing out his hand even though she doesn't know how to play. Mary makes all the men follow her (so no one can see each other's hands) across the street to the bank. To which the men are laughing at her - like a banker would give someone cash for a poker game.

The ending of this film is a real twist, but thoroughly entertaining, especially due to the great writing by Sidney Carroll. It's also a pleasure to watch this fine cast, mostly Henry Fonda and Jean-Michel Michenaud. The only bonus feature is the Selected Scenes feature.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady is part of Warner Home Video's Leading Ladies Collection Volume 2. A follow-up to WHV's 2006 release of Leading Ladies of the Studio Era, the five films also include I'll Cry Tomorrow, Rich and Famous, Shoot the Moon and Up the Down Staircase. The film's stars include Joanne Woodward, Susan Hayward, Jacqueline Bisset, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Sandy Dennis. Digitally remastered in 16x9 (preserving their original theatrical aspect ratios), the films are available in a 5-disc boxed-set ($49.92 SRP) and individually ($19.97 SRP).

Director:  Fielder Cook Sidney Carroll

Writers: Sidney Carroll adapted from his earlier teleplay Big Hand in Laredo

Cast: Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards, Paul Ford, Charles Bickford, Burgess Meredith, Kevin McCarthy,  Robert Middleton,  John Qualen  

Run Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: Not rated - suggested for 13 and older

Classic Movie Guide Rating: 3.5 our of 5 stars

DVD Release Date:   11/06/2007

Studio: Warner Home Video

Format: Color - Widescreen

Photo credits: Warner Home Video




Do you watch more Classic DVDs than newer films on DVD?

alliance of women film journalists
© 2017 Classic Movie Guide
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.