Big Hand for the Little Lady, A (1967): Western Starring Joanne Woodward and Henry Fonda

Rather unusually for a Western, the plot in A Big Hand for the Little Lady revolves around a high-stake poker game and a strong female protagonist, played by Oscar-winner Joanne Woodward.

A Big Hand for the Little Lady
A Big Hand for the Little Lady.jpg

The story, directed by Fields, is based on a Dupont Show of the TV presentation Big Deal at Laredo.

The participants include some of the wealthiest and sharpest men in town (Jason Robards Jr., Kevin McCarthy, Charles Bickford and Paul Ford), who have little use for women.  Which means that soon they will confront one who will challenge their values and prejudices

Henry Fonda plays Meredith an impoverished farmer, who despite, strong protests of his wife Mary (Joanne Woodward) spends his last dollar to join the game.

When Meredith falls ill, with quiet desperation, Mary sits down at the table and firmly says, “Gentlemen, how do you play this game?” Shocked by her strength, the players obey, leading to some unanticipated consequences.

Spoiler Alert

It turns out that Meredith, Mary, and their “son” are confidence tricksters and expert card sharps, who have perpetrated a scam on the other poker players.

“Mary,” who’s actually Ballinger’s girlfriend Ruby, had promised him to give up gambling after the caper, but she sits down to another poker game, to his dismay.

The supporting cast includes silent screen comedian Chester Conklin and Mae Clarke, star of the early sound era.

Henry Fonda as Meredith
Joanne Woodward as Mary
Jason Robards as Henry P.G. Drummond
Paul Ford as C.P. Ballinger
Charles Bickford as Benson Tropp
Burgess Meredith as Doc Joseph Scully
Kevin McCarthy as Otto Habershaw
Robert Middleton as Dennis Wilcox
John Qualen as Jesse Buford
Percy Helton as Kevin McKenzie
Gerald Michenaud as Jackie
James Kinney as Sam Rhine
Allen Collins as Toby
Jim Boles as Pete
Virginia Gregg as Mrs. Drummond
Chester Conklin as Old Man In Saloon
Mae Clarke as Mrs. Craig
Ned Glass as Owney Price
James Griffith as Mr. Stribling
Noah Keen as Sparrow


Produced, directed by Fielder Cook
Written by Sidney Carroll, based on Big Deal in Laredo, 1962 NBC teleplay by Sidney Carroll
Music by David Raksin
Cinematography Lee Garmes
Edited by George R. Rohrs
Color process Technicolor

Production company: Eden Productions Inc.

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: May 31, 1966

Running time: 95 minutes

DVD: November 6, 2007