Jim Douglas has been relentlessly pursuing the four outlaws who murdered his wife, but finds them in jail about to be hanged. While he waits to witness their execution, they escape; and the... See full summary »
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 <email@example.com>
In the 1958 movie starring and produced by Gregory Peck "The Big Country" the foreman (played by Charlton Heston) Steve Leech rides a very striking and beautiful black and white paint horse. 10 years later in the 1968 movie starring Gregory Peck "The Stalking Moon" the same horse is ridden by the Apache chief Salvaje. See more »
When Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) starts out to catch the major, the sky is deep blue and clear, but when he catches him just seconds later, it's a cloudy sky. Steve's bandana is also tied differently. Clearly the scene was shot in more than one take. See more »
Major Henry Terrill:
What do you want, Hannassey?
I'm just payin' back the call you and your men made on my home this mornin'. Sorry I wasn't there to give you the proper welcome.
Major Henry Terrill:
Let him speak his piece.
Take it easy, boy. I've got me somethin' to say: it's about thirty years overdue. This is a mighty fine house, Major Terrill: a gentleman's house. Those are mighty fine clothes your wearin'. Well, maybe you've got some of these folks fooled, but you ain't got me fooled, not by a damn sight! The Hannassey's know ...
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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.
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