The cast of Little Big Man (1970) Ages Then and Now

The cast of Little Big Man (1970) Ages Then and Now
Little Big Man Cast of 1970 Updated

The 1970 western film Little Big Man featured an ensemble cast of talented actors, both veterans and up-and-comers. Directed by Arthur Penn and starring Dustin Hoffman, the movie was praised for its revisionist take on the history of Native Americans and white settlers in the American West.

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Let's take a deep nostalgic dive into the main cast of Little Big Man, their ages when the movie was released, and where they are now over 50 years later.

Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb - Then 33, Now 86 Years Old

Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb

The film's protagonist Jack Crabb was portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, who brought immense talent and commitment to the role. Hoffman was only 33 years old at the time of the movie's 1970 release, though he had skyrocketed to fame a few years prior after his breakout role in The Graduate (1967).

In Little Big Man, Hoffman embodied the character of Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old frontiersman recounting his life story and encounters with historical figures. Through an incredible range of emotions and accent work, Hoffman convincingly portrayed Jack Crabb across various decades of his long life. The actor threw himself completely into the role, taking great pains to authentically adopt the speech, mannerisms, and physicality of a 121-year-old man. This dedication earned him high praise and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Now 86 years old, Hoffman remains an acclaimed and prolific performer. His decades-long career includes iconic films like Midnight Cowboy, Kramer vs. Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man, and many more. Recent roles include the HBO series Luck and films such as The Meyerowitz Stories and Kung Fu Panda 3. Hoffman's mastery of method acting and ability to immerse himself in characters of all ages are on full display in Little Big Man.

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Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Pendrake - Then 29, Now 82 Years Old

Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Pendrake

In the role of Jack Crabb's manipulative yet seductive love interest Mrs. Louise Pendrake was Faye Dunaway, who was 29 years old at the time of Little Big Man's release. By 1970, Dunaway was already an established star with acclaimed performances in Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

As Mrs. Pendrake, Dunaway brought an electricity to the character through a sinful charm balanced between seduction and danger. She displayed shrewd intelligence in depicting Mrs. Pendrake's schemes to gain wealth and power. Dunaway excellently conveyed the complex motivations and moxie of a woman surviving and thriving on the frontier. This role demonstrated Dunaway's exceptional range and screen presence.

Now 82, Dunaway boasts an extensive filmography with roles in classics like Chinatown, Network, Mommie Dearest, and Don Juan DeMarco. She earned the Best Actress Oscar for 1976's Network. With over five decades in the business, Dunaway remains a Hollywood icon. Her turn as the cunning Mrs. Pendrake stands as one of her most memorable early performances.

Chief Dan George as Old Lodge Skins - Then 71, Died in 1981 at Age 82

Chief Dan George as Old Lodge Skins

In the role of Jack Crabb's Cheyenne grandfather Old Lodge Skins was Chief Dan George, who brought immense wisdom and humanity to the portrayal. George was 71 years old when Little Big Man premiered, relatively new to acting, having started in film just a few years prior.

Though he began his creative arts career later in life, Chief Dan George became renowned for his compelling portrayals of wise, poetic Native American characters on screen while also advocating for indigenous rights. As Old Lodge Skins, he provided an incredibly authentic voice and perspective to the Native American characters in the film. George gave a sublime performance - at turns humorous, moving, and filled with the spirit of his Cherokee heritage.

In addition to acting, Chief Dan George was a prominent activist and author focused on achieving justice for Native peoples. He served as chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation from 1951 to 1963. His compelling performance as Old Lodge Skins earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. George continued acting until his death in 1981 at the age of 82. The role stands as his most iconic, cementing his legacy as one of the most impactful Native American actors in cinema.


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Supporting Cast: Then and Now

Beyond the main trio, the excellent supporting cast of Little Big Man also included:

  • Martin Balsam as Mr. Merriweather. Balsam brought gravitas and presence to the role of a marshal, accentuating the film's mix of drama and humour. He was 51 at the time and passed away in 1996 at age 76.
Martin Balsam as Mr. Merriweather
  • Richard Mulligan as General Custer. Mulligan portrayed Custer as an egotistical buffoon, helping drive the film's satirical take on flawed heroes of the Old West. He was 38 in 1970 and died in 2000 at 67.
Richard Mulligan as General Custer
  • Jeff Corey as Wild Bill Hickok. Corey's gruff intensity was well-suited to play the larger-than-life folk hero Hickok. He brought a weathered grittiness to the role and was 56 during filming, later passing in 2002 at age 88.
Jeff Corey as Wild Bill Hickok


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  • Aimee Eccles as Sunshine. Eccles gave a bright and optimistic performance as one of Jack Crabb's young wives, representing hope and new beginnings. She was 21 at the time and is now 73 years old.
  • Kelly Jean Peters as Olga Crabb. Peters provided a fun and layered performance as Jack Crabb's wife later in life. She skillfully balanced humor and underlying tragedy. Peters was 30 during filming and is now 83.
  • William Hickey as The Historian. Hickey's narrator provided hilarious intermittent narration and quirky recollections of Jack Crabb's life. He imbued the character with humorous eccentricity. Hickey was 43 in 1970 and passed in 1997 at 69.
This diverse supporting team each made unique contributions that enhanced the storytelling and championed the film's success.

An Enduring Revisionist Classic

Little Big Man broke the mold of traditional westerns by presenting a satirical yet poignant exploration of American history and Native American struggles. The masterful ensemble cast, led by Dustin Hoffman's engrossing turn as Jack Crabb, carried the film's mix of drama, adventure, and dark comedy.

Looking back at the ages and lives of these actors provides a snapshot of the brilliant talents that came together to create an enduring revisionist classic that still feels fresh and relevant today. Though decades have passed since its 1970 release, Little Big Man's themes, performances, and cinematic craftsmanship will be remembered as a high point of American cinema.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Little Big Man

What was the plot of Little Big Man?

Little Big Man told the fictional story of Jack Crabb, a 121-year-old man looking back on his life in the American West. Played by Dustin Hoffman, Jack recounts his adventures encountering characters like Wild Bill Hickok and General Custer across multiple decades. The film provides a revisionist, satirical look at American history and the mistreatment of Native Americans.

When was Little Big Man released?

Little Big Man was released in 1970. It was directed by Arthur Penn and based on the novel by Thomas Berger.

Who were the main actors in Little Big Man?

The main cast included:

  • Dustin Hoffman as Jack Crabb
  • Chief Dan George as Old Lodge Skins
  • Faye Dunaway as Mrs. Pendrake
  • Martin Balsam as Mr. Merriweather
  • Richard Mulligan as General Custer

How was Chief Dan George's character important?

Chief Dan George played Jack Crabb's Cheyenne grandfather, Old Lodge Skins. The portrayal provided an authentic Native American perspective and voice at a time when such roles were rarely written.

How old was Dustin Hoffman during filming?

Dustin Hoffman was 33 years old when he played the elderly Jack Crabb in Little Big Man. His incredible performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

What was unique about Little Big Man compared to other Westerns?

Unlike traditional Westerns, Little Big Man took a revisionist approach critiquing figures like Custer and presenting a sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans. The film blended humor and drama for a unique tone.

Why does Little Big Man remain a noteworthy film today?

The film is highly regarded for its acting, balanced tone, and nuanced exploration of American history. It endures as an influential work of the Western genre that humanized Native Americans in a groundbreaking way.

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