So Big (1953): Robert Wise’s Third Screen Version of Edna Ferber’s Book, Starring Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden

Robert Wise directed So Big, an inspirational family melodrama, starring Jane Wyman and Sterling Hayden, from a screenplay by John Twist, based on the 1924 novel by Edna Ferber.

So Big
So Big! (1932 film).jpg

Theatrical release poster

It was the third adaptation of the book, after a 1924 silent film with Colleen Moore, and So Big! with Barbara Stanwyck, in 1932.

Too conventional, So Big is a routine melodrama that’s neither one of Wise’s best films, nor one of Jane Wyman.

The Premise:

In the late 1890s, boarding school student Selina Peake learns that her late father has left her penniless as the result of bad business. August Hempel secures her a teaching position in New Holland, a small Dutch farming community.

She rents a room in the home of Klaas Pool, who lives with his unhappy wife Maartje and intelligent but troubled adolescent son Roelf.

Jane Wyman as Selina DeJong
Sterling Hayden as Pervis DeJong
Steve Forrest as Dirk DeJong
Nancy Olson as Dallas O’Mara
Walter Coy as Roelf Pool
Elisabeth Fraser as Julie Hempel
Jacques Aubuchon as August Hempel
Martha Hyer as Paula Hempel
Roland Winters as Klaas Pool
Ruth Swanson as Maartje Pool
Lillian Kemble-Cooper as Mrs. Fister
Richard Beymer as Roelf, ages 12–16
Tommy Rettig as Dirk, age 8
James Dime as a man at auction.


Directed by Robert Wise
Produced by Henry Blanke
Written by John Twist, based on So Big 1924 novel by Edna Ferber
Music by Max Steiner
Cinematography Ellsworth Fredericks
Edited by Thomas Reilly
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: October 21, 1953

Running time: 101 minutes
Box office $2 million


TCM showed the movie on March 12, 2021.