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Gregory La Cava
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The story, told in eight episodes, covers different facets of the American Spirit, from racial and religious tolerance to the dangers of self-centeredness and myopic reasoning. The parables represent a broad cross-section of the American experience: the elderly woman whose pride is injured when she's forgotten in the latest census; the novice minister more pleased with the sound of his own voice than with the needs of his congregation; the mother who confronts the illogic of racial intolerance when she meets the best friend of the son she lost to war; and the enigma that is Texas. Episode titles are: 1) Interruptions, Interruptions; 2) Census Taker; 3) Negro Story; 4) Rosika, the Rose; 5) Letter from Korea; 6) Lone Star; (7) Minister in Washington; 8) Four Eyes; a further episode, titled Load, directed by Anthony Mann, with 'Jean Hersholt' (q.v.) and 'Ann Harding' (q.v.), was filmed but deleted. Written by
Chris Stone <email@example.com>
I doubt if a film like It's A Big Country could be made in and about the America of post Vietnam and Watergate. A whole lot of the clichés presented here just aren't bought any more by large segments of the population. For whatever it's worth the film is a presentation of what we thought about ourselves in 1951.
It's a film with several different segments, some serious some pretty funny about every day Americans in all walks of life, in all parts of the then 48 states.
The two I liked best were those that ironically starred the two men who were not MGM contract players, Gary Cooper and Fredric March. Gary Cooper plays a Texas cowboy talking about his state and disillusioning us with a tongue in cheek delivery about the way Texans and Texas are perceived by the other 47 states. Of course Cooper's humor and the whole premise behind this segment was that Texas was our largest state in land mass. That ended in 1959 when Alaska became the 49th state, still it's the highlight of It's A Big Country.
Fredric March plays an Italian American father who's opposed to his son, Bobby Hyatt, getting needed glasses even after teacher Nancy Davis tells him it's necessary. He's got some old world ideas that need a bit of adjustment. March plays the role with dignity never do you feel he's a caricature.
Another episode that is nicely done involves Gene Kelly, Greek American boy falling for Janet Leigh, Hungarian American girl. They've got a problem though, her father played by Hollywood's number one Hungarian S.Z. Sakall. In the past 20 years we've seen a whole lot of stories about ancient ethnic hatreds coming out of Eastern Europe. Sakall is carrying some old grudges against Greeks though he really isn't sure why. Point being that here in America you're supposed to leave that all behind. That segment is still very much relevant.
Could we make It's A Big Country today? Not at this time, maybe at some future point when we've reached a national consensus that despite all our problems, America's a pretty good place after all.
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