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Big Jim McLain (1952)

Approved  |   |  Action, Crime, Drama  |  30 August 1952 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.2/10 from 1,289 users  
Reviews: 32 user | 8 critic

In the post-war Hawaii, House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter hunt down communists.



(quotes from "The Devil and Dan'l Webster"), , 5 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Nancy Vallon
Mal Baxter
Veda Ann Borg ...
Robert Henried
Hal Baylor ...
Gayne Whitman ...
Dr. Gelster
Gordon Jones ...
Robert Keys ...
Edwin White
John Hubbard ...
Lt. Cmdr. Clint Grey
Soo Yong ...
Mrs. Namaka (as Madame Soo Yong)
Dan Liu ...
Dan Liu, Honolulu Chief of Police (as Honolulu Chief of Police Dan Liu)
Vernon 'Red' McQueen ...
Phil Briggs (as Red McQueen)


U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii (ignoring somewhat, as do their superiors in the Congress, that membership in the Communist Party was, at the time, legal in the U.S.) Written by Jim Beaver <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

30 August 1952 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jim McLain  »

Box Office


$826,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Nancy Olson hated the script but she figured six weeks in Hawaii and a chance to work with an icon like John Wayne seemed a good enough reason to accept. Besides, she thought the film would flop and nobody would see it. She was right to a degree - it wasn't one of Wayne's more successful pictures - but she didn't count on the constant TV exposure it has had and says people stop her all the time to say they've seen her in the film. Olson, a staunch liberal Democrat, said she and Wayne would often have political arguments but she would always let Wayne have the last word. See more »


Jim states that the USS Arizona "is still carried on Navy lists as a fighting ship of the line." The Arizona was actually officially struck from the Navy Vessel Register in December 1942. See more »


Nancy Vallon: He just is a neuter in the personality.
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Featured in The John Wayne Anthology (1991) See more »


(I Wish I Was in) Dixie's Land
aka "Dixie"
Music by Daniel Decatur Emmett
Played during the opening credits
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User Reviews

One of John Wayne's least known and at the same time most underrated film
18 December 2004 | by (Brooklyn NY USA) – See all my reviews

(Some Spoilers) John Wayne as James "Big Jim" McLain in a very restrained role for him, in the action department,as an investigator for the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee. Big Jim is sent to the island of Oahu Hawaii who along with his friend and fellow investigator Mike Baxter, James Arness, is out to expose and arrest a Communit group operating there.

Planing to start labor unrest and even going as far as planing to release disease infected rats loose on the unsuspecting people living there these commie swines were up to their old tricks again in fomenting fear and hatred among the local population in order to start a Communist take-over of the island.

Big Jim and Mike get a very important lead that may well break the entire Communist operation wide open when they find out from a former commie member that was the treasury secretary of the communist party Willie Namaka is cracking up under the strain of being a Red in Paradise. Willie may well spill the beans on his commie comrades but they, the communists, get to Willie before Big Jim and Mike can put him into protective custody.

Totally unconscious from drugs injected into his system by a local commie Doctor Willie is now useless to the US and local official's in getting any information out of him about what his "friends" in the movement are planing for the good and honest people of Hawaii. What the commies didn't plan on is that they were up against Big Jim and he was gonna make them pay in full for what they planned to do and later did, the rotten and cowardly commies murdered Mike later in the film, and that they were going to pay for it in spades.

There were some things in the movie "Big Jim McLain" that was obviously over-the-top but at the same time the film was very honest about the threat of Communisum that the USA and the Free World faced at that time. At the conclusion of the movie we see US Marines going on a troop ship to the Korean Front to fight the Communist North Koreans and Chinese troops. The movie was made in 1952 when the Korean War was at full tilt and tens of thousands of Americans were being killed and wounded fighting the Communists there. With thousands of US servicemen fighting and dying in Korea, against the Communists, what was so wrong to put the local Communists, who were totally supportive of the Red Communist army in Korea, in the film in a bad light?

There were also excesses over the Red menace in the movie as well. We see Willie's wife Mrs. Namaka, Soo Yong, who was a commie like Willie but quit the movement after ten years to become a nurse, at the famous leper colony of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. This action by Mrs. Numaka to make amends for her past sins was a little too much to take. Later when we see the Lexiters, Paul Hurst & Sara Padden, who disowned and threw their son Eddie, Robert Keys,out of the house after coming home from a trip to the Soviet Union and declaring himself a commie was also somewhat ridicules.

Eddie was a good and decent boy only for the fact that he was a commie! Was that enough for his parents to throw him out in the cold and not even make an attempt to try to talk him out of being one? I don't think that there was any parent, who loved their children, that would have done that to their own son or daughter even back then at the very hight of the "Red Scare".

In general "Big Jim McLain" was very honest about how the USA was in it's fear of the Communist Menece and how the American people felt about it.

In the movie, like in real life, I could never understand why people would join the Communist Movement. It offered them nothing but hopelessness and despair. It used the people like you would use a hanker-chief to blow your nose discarding its loyal members when they were no longer of any use to it. And even the Communist Party's promises of freedom and economic security was nothing but a fraud in the movie like in real life. It treated the working men and women with utter contempt like in one scene in the film where Big Jim let one the commies have it, right in the mouth, when he called those who worked for a living "White Trash and Cotton Choppers".

You can overlook the excesses of "Big Jim McLain" and see a clear picture of how really vicious and deranged the hard corps Communist not the vast majority of Communist members in the movement, or "Useful Idiots" as their leader called them, really were and why that created the excesses that the US government went to in combating them.

33 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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