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The Big Country
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The Big Country (1958) More at IMDbPro »

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The Big Country -- Dazzling photography, an intelligent script, remarkable performances, superb direction and compelling music animate this large-scale Western.  An ex-sea captain (Gregory Peck) comes West to marry Carroll Baker and settle down on the ranch of her father (Charles Bickford).  A mutual dislike develops between Peck and the ranch foreman (Charlton Heston).  Baker shares many of the "macho" sensibilities represented by Heston, which drives Peck away from her and into the arms of a schoolteacher (Jean Simmons) - who happens to own the only water for miles around.  Bickford and Burl Ives have been competing for rights to Simmons' water and are willing to use any means to get it.  The intertwining tensions between Peck & Heston and Bickford & Ives inevitably will lead to a climactic and violent confrontation.


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Up 2% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
James R. Webb (screenplay) &
Sy Bartlett (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for The Big Country on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
1 October 1958 (USA) See more »
Big they fought! Big they loved! Big their story!
A New Englander arrives in the Old West, where he becomes embroiled in a feud between two families over a valuable patch of land. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Won Oscar. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
"How Many Times Does A Man Have To Win You?" See more (147 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Gregory Peck ... James McKay

Jean Simmons ... Julie Maragon

Carroll Baker ... Patricia Terrill

Charlton Heston ... Steve Leech

Burl Ives ... Rufus Hannassey

Charles Bickford ... Maj. Henry Terrill
Alfonso Bedoya ... Ramón Guiteras

Chuck Connors ... Buck Hannassey
Chuck Hayward ... Rafe Hannassey
Buff Brady ... Dude Hannassey
Jim Burk ... Blackie / Cracker Hannassey

Dorothy Adams ... Hannassey Woman
Chuck Roberson ... Terrill Cowboy
Bob Morgan ... Terrill Cowboy
John McKee ... Terrill Cowboy
Slim Talbot ... Terrill Cowboy (as Jay Slim Talbot)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Richard Alexander ... Party Guest - Oceans (uncredited)
Harry Cheshire ... Party Guest (uncredited)

William Hoehne Jr. ... Lefty Hannassey cowhand (uncredited)
Jay W. Jensen ... Cowboy (uncredited)
Donald Kerr ... Liveryman (uncredited)

Roddy McDowall ... Hannassey Watchman (uncredited)
Carey Paul Peck ... Boy (uncredited)
Jonathan Peck ... Boy (uncredited)
Stephen Peck ... Boy (uncredited)
Ralph Sanford ... Party Guest (uncredited)

Directed by
William Wyler 
Writing credits
James R. Webb (screenplay) &
Sy Bartlett (screenplay) &
Robert Wilder (screenplay)

Jessamyn West (adaptation) &
Robert Wyler (adaptation)

Donald Hamilton (novel)

Produced by
Gregory Peck .... producer
Robert Wyler .... associate producer
William Wyler .... producer
Original Music by
Jerome Moross 
Cinematography by
Franz Planer (director of photography) (as Franz F. Planer)
Film Editing by
Robert Belcher 
John Faure 
Casting by
Dorothy Whitney 
Art Direction by
Frank Hotaling 
Set Decoration by
Edward G. Boyle 
Costume Design by
Emile Santiago 
Yvonne Wood 
Makeup Department
Dan Greenway .... makeup artist
Harry Maret .... makeup artist (as Harry Maret Jr.)
Joan St. Oegger .... hair stylist
Gale McGarry .... hairdresser (uncredited)
Nick Volpe .... makeup sketches (uncredited)
Production Management
Tom Andre .... production manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Ray Gosnell Jr. .... second assistant director (as Ray Gosnell)
Henry Hartman .... assistant director: second unit
Robert Swink .... director: second unit
Ivan Volkman .... assistant director
John Waters .... director: second unit
Robert Templeton .... second assistant director (uncredited)
Art Department
Saul Bass .... poster designer (uncredited)
C. Randall Berkeley .... greensman (uncredited)
Patrick Delany .... second prop man (uncredited)
Charles Gay .... leadman (uncredited)
Arnold Pine .... construction foreman (uncredited)
Tom Plews .... prop master (uncredited)
Steven Pridgeon .... draughtsman (uncredited)
Harry Spurgan .... art checker (uncredited)
Hal Waller .... draughtsman (uncredited)
Sound Department
Del Harris .... sound effects editor
Roger Heman Sr. .... sound recording (as Roger Heman)
John K. Kean .... sound recording (as John Kean)
Harry Alphin .... sound effects editor (uncredited)
Harry Alphin .... sound recordist (uncredited)
Special Effects by
Al Gonzales .... special effects (uncredited)
Bill Babcock .... stunts (uncredited)
Buff Brady .... stunts (uncredited)
Jim Burk .... stunts (uncredited)
Martha Crawford .... stunt double: Carroll Baker (uncredited)
Martha Crawford .... stunt double: Jean Simmons (uncredited)
Donna Hall .... stunts (uncredited)
Chuck Hayward .... stunts (uncredited)
John McKee .... stunts (uncredited)
Bob Morgan .... stunts (uncredited)
Hal Needham .... stunts (uncredited)
Chuck Roberson .... stunts (uncredited)
Slim Talbot .... stunts (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Wallace Chewning .... director of photography: second unit
Don Christie .... still photographer (uncredited)
Eddie Garvin .... camera operator (uncredited)
Dick Johnson .... assistant camera (uncredited)
John Livesley .... key grip (uncredited)
Fred Mandl .... camera operator (uncredited)
Harry Sundby .... gaffer (uncredited)
Sidney Zipser .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Eddie Armand .... costumer
Neva Rames .... costumer
Joan Joseff .... costume jeweller (uncredited)
Agnes Koschin .... fitter (uncredited)
Agnes Koschin .... wardrobe cutter (uncredited)
John Lucas .... second wardrobe (uncredited)
Editorial Department
Robert Swink .... supervising editor
Hal Ashby .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Tony Friedman .... assistant editor (uncredited)
William Sands .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Music Department
Lloyd Young .... music editor
Alexander Courage .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Gil Grau .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Bernard Mayers .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Conrad Salinger .... orchestrator (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Chuck Hammond .... transportation gaffer (uncredited)
Other crew
Saul Bass .... titles designed by
Carl P. Benoit .... location manager
Sam Freedle .... script supervisor
Clarence Marks .... assistant: William Wyler
Robert Gary .... script supervisor (uncredited)
Kenneth Gilmore .... first aid (uncredited)
Harold Hourihan .... office accountant (uncredited)
Al Jank .... ramrod (uncredited)
Monty W. 'Red' Kennedy .... location auditor (uncredited)
Carey Leverette .... choreographer (uncredited)
Harry Mines .... unit publicist (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
165 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Argentina:13 | Australia:PG | Canada:PG (Ontario) | Finland:K-16 | Netherlands:14 (original rating) (1959) (one cut) | Norway:16 | Sweden:15 | UK:A (original rating) | UK:PG (video rating) (1988) (1993) (2001) (2013) | USA:Unrated | USA:Not Rated (DVD) | USA:Approved (MPAA rating: certificate #18972) | West Germany:12
Filming Locations:

Did You Know?

The character played by Charles Bickford was supposed to represent then US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.See more »
Continuity: At 1:47:23, Ramon takes his hat off with his left hand, then with his right, then has it in his left.See more »
Steve Leech:You know, McKay, you're a bigger fool than I thought you were. And to tell you the truth, that just didn't seem possible.See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in Interactive Film Quiz (2006) (VG)See more »


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99 out of 115 people found the following review useful.
"How Many Times Does A Man Have To Win You?", 30 January 2006
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York

The Big Country is one big and fun western with concurrent plot lines. The first is the struggle between two implacable enemies, Charles Bickford and Burl Ives. The second is a four sided romantic triangle involving Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, and Carroll Baker with Chuck Connors trying to horn in.

William Wyler directed the almost three hour western with a sure hand and your interest does not wane for one minute in this film. Gregory Peck also was a co-producer on this film as well as the first billed. He had a hand in casting a lot of the film, specifically Burl Ives in his Academy Award winning performance as Rufus Hannessy.

It's the Terrills versus the Hannessys. Charles Bickford is the local Ponderosa owner Major Terrill. Presumably the title comes from the Civil War. Bickford does play Terrill with a military bearing. My guess is that he was a Yankee soldier.

The Hannessys would now be called white trash. They look like hillbilly folk who also came west for fame and fortune. They've also got a big spread in a place called Blanco Canyon. They hate the Yankee Major as much as he hates them.

Sitting between them is Jean Simmons who has inherited a modest piece of land that sits across a river that both outfits water their cattle on as per an agreement with her late grandfather. She doesn't work the land herself any more, she teaches school in town.

Simmons tries to keep above the feud. She is friends with Carroll Baker, Charles Bickford's daughter. She's been east and is bringing home a prospective bridegroom who is a former sea captain played by Gregory Peck. That doesn't sit well with Charlton Heston who is the Terrill foreman. He's got eyes on Baker himself and Chuck Connors who is Burl Ives eldest son has eyes for Simmons when he's not in the local bordello.

A lot of started and broken relationships and a few of the cast members being killed occurs in The Big Country. My favorite scene and line in the film is when Burl Ives gives some advice to Chuck Connors on how to woo and win Jean Simmons. His big advice is to show her how much you care by taking a bath occasionally.

Charlton Heston took a role that was fourth billed because he wanted the opportunity to work with William Wyler. That was one great career move because Wyler and he hit it off so well that Wyler signed him for the lead in his next film which turned out to be Ben-Hur. Heston in his memoirs, conservative as he became, says he also got along very well with Gregory Peck who he called a "thinking man's liberal."

Peck and Wyler had worked together previously on Roman Holiday and had done good work there and also hit it off. However with Peck as a co-producer as well as star they had some clashes on the set. One notable one involved Peck wanting to retake the carriage scene where the Hannessy brothers attack Peck and Baker on the way to the Bickford ranch. Peck wasn't satisfied and wanted a retake. Wyler who was legendary for doing scenes dozens of times until he got what he wanted refused. Later when shown the finished film, Wyler had edited out and around what Peck didn't like and it came out OK. They remained friends, but never worked together again.

Simmons as the independent minded school teacher and Baker as the spoiled daddy's little girl acquit themselves well in their roles. Baker is disappointed in Peck not seeing him as her ideal western man and Simmons upbraids her with the quote I put in the review title.

This is also the final film of Alfonso Bedoya who never did get a role in an American film as good as the one he had as Gold Hat in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Still this is a fine farewell performance to a very colorful and talented player.

When he's on the screen Burl Ives dominates and fills it and not just physically either. Rufus Hannessy may not be to the manor born, but he has his own sense of integrity and fair play. All that Burl Ives captured in Rufus and The Big Country is worth watching just for him alone.

And that Jerome Moross score; simply one of the best ever done in the history of film.

Was the above review useful to you?
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