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...
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Burt served in the Marines during the war, but now he is confined to an asylum. His experiences in the South Pacific left him mentally ill and deathly afraid of storm clouds and rain. ... See full summary »
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>
"It's a Big Country" is a significant film. Created only a few years after the victorious effort of WWII, it was delivered to an American public that was exercising newfound powers, economic and political. It was a society undergoing rapid change for the same reasons and also due to changing mores in gender and race relations (caused by war experiences) and due to changes in technology and infrastructure (the car, interstate highways, etc.). The film fairly pleads for factions of the country to remain united despite their tendency to seek their own identities.
This film feels like a moving representation of Norman Rockwell paintings, displaying a homespun, good-natured respect for traditions and the values that drove the United States to become successful. From the viewpoint of the 21st century, some of these values seem naïve. In our post-Watergate world, fewer Americans see government authority and other established authorities as innately benign. But it is simplistically easy to view this film as merely propaganda or naïve.
Most of the episodes in this collection of vignettes champion values that were and are important to embrace: Racial understanding. The American melting pot. The Constitutional freedoms. But reading some reviews of the film, it is clear that some viewers also see the film as a documentary on American exceptionalism. And it's a subtext that cannot be ignored. Various individuals have always promoted the idea that America is the greatest country that ever existed--teachers, politicians, the military, the clergy.
The thing that is exceptional and unique about the U.S. is its Constitution. Sometimes that message is lost in the nationalistic clamor.
The film has an exceptional cast (Frederic March continues to amaze), exceptional writing that stirs the heart and summons tears, and solid production values. For those of any age, it can serve as a marker designating the state of the country circa 1950. So many complex factors have affected the evolution of the U.S. from what it was to what it is now. I like being reminded of the optimism of that time, however naïve. And it can remind us of the values we need to preserve and the viewpoints we have thankfully left behind.
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