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The Big Country (1958)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, Romance, Western  |  1 October 1958 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 10,758 users  
Reviews: 146 user | 44 critic

A New Englander arrives in the Old West, where he becomes embroiled in a feud between two families over a valuable patch of land.



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Won 1 Oscar. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Alfonso Bedoya ...
Ramón Guiteras
Buck Hannassey
Chuck Hayward ...
Rafe Hannassey
Buff Brady ...
Dude Hannassey
Jim Burk ...
Blackie / Cracker Hannassey
Hannassey Woman
Chuck Roberson ...
Terrill Cowboy
Bob Morgan ...
Terrill Cowboy
John McKee ...
Terrill Cowboy


Retired, wealthy sea Captain Jame McKay arrives in the vast expanse of the West to marry fiancée Pat Terrill. McKay is a man whose values and approach to life are a mystery to the ranchers and ranch foreman Steve Leech takes an immediate dislike to him. Pat is spoiled, selfish and controlled by her wealthy father, Major Henry Terrill. The Major is involved in a ruthless civil war, over watering rights for cattle, with a rough hewn clan led by Rufus Hannassey. The land in question is owned by Julie Maragon and both Terrill and Hannassey want it. Written by E.W. DesMarais <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Big they fought! Big they loved! Big their story!


Drama | Romance | Western


Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

1 October 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Horizontes de grandeza  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Aged 47 at the time of filming, Burl Ives was only 11 years older than Chuck Connors, who played his son. See more »


In the scene where Gregory Peck first visits Jean Simmons on the "Big Muddy" property and they gaze across the river, a long string of tall high voltage electrical towers can be seen arrayed against the most distant (California) hilltops. They are seen again in a later scene shot from a similar angle. The plot of "The Big Country" takes place in the 1800's. See more »


James McKay: I'm not going to go on living in the middle of a civil war.
See more »


Featured in The Simpsons: The Seemingly Never-Ending Story (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

23 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

As a rule, I don't like westerns. This isn't because I'm a city slicker (though now, I do live in a city). I grew up in rural Eastern Oregon where "real" cowboys still herd their cattle through the center of town in John Day, Oregon. My stepfather owned a 10,170 acre cattle ranch. After being raised among "real" cowboys, the Hollywood versions tend to leave me flat. The Big Country was an exception.

Jim McKay (Gregory Peck) introduced us to a different kind of man, far different than most stereotypical men of the Wild West. If I were to compare McKay's character to any other film character, it would be Ghandi. He's a man who doesn't feel obliged to seek the approval of others ... a man who believes that violence doesn't need to be used to solve problems. His secret ride of Old Thunder, making Ramon (Alfonso Bedoya) swear to keep quiet regardless of the outcome, set the tone for McKay's character. His later secret fight with Steve Leech (Charleton Heston), making him swear to keep quiet regardless of the outcome, cemented that tone. This was a REAL man whose opinion of himself was not dependent upon anyone else's opinion ... in stark contrast to anyone else in the film outside of Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons). As Ramon said, "Such a man is very rare."

Outside of McKay, my #2 favorite character in the film was Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives). I found nothing about him distasteful considering he was a character whose back was against the wall ... whose livelihood was threatened. The things he did make perfect sense in such a situation. His only flaw was his obvious poor parenthood. He really blew it with Buck (Chuck Connors) and Buck's siblings were of the same ilk.

I'm so glad that MGM/UA finally released the widescreen version in 2001. This is a film that deserves such a presence. It may not be playing in theaters anymore but seeing it in any other display size takes so much away from it. I've seen the pan/scan version before and will never go back.

One note. The full listing of writing credits for the film adaptation is lacking. "Ambush In Blanco Canyon," originally serialized in a magazine, was later novelized into "The Big Country" by Donald Hamilton ... and Hamilton also worked on the adaptation as well as Leon Uris ("Topaz," "Exodus," "Gunfight At the OK Corral," etc.).

This epic film was not lacking for anything. It had the best writers, the best actors, the best musical score, and the best scenery of any other film of its time ... western or otherwise. And the film remains one of my favorite films of all time.

91 of 105 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
Who could play Clem Maragon? mike-osullivan3
Use of compass when out riding, Best_ID_I_can_think_of
What was the future for McKay and Leech? gancommercial
Awesome Theme Music rikitiki
Rufus holds Buck after he kills him sul-4
What happens before the very end? jgepperson
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