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Big Jake (1971)

GP | | Western | 26 May 1971 (USA)
In 1909, when John Fain's gang kidnaps Jacob McCandles' grandson and holds him for ransom, Big Jake sets out to rescue the boy.


George Sherman, John Wayne (uncredited)


Harry Julian Fink (story and screenplay), Rita M. Fink (story and screenplay) (as R.M. Fink)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
John Wayne ... Jacob McCandles
Richard Boone ... John Fain
Maureen O'Hara ... Martha McCandles
Patrick Wayne ... James McCandles
Christopher Mitchum ... Michael McCandles (as Chris Mitchum)
Bobby Vinton ... Jeff McCandles
Bruce Cabot ... Sam Sharpnose
Glenn Corbett ... O'Brien
Harry Carey Jr. ... Pop Dawson
John Doucette ... Buck Dugan
Jim Davis ... Head of Lynching Party
John Agar ... Bert Ryan
Gregg Palmer ... John Goodfellow
Jim Burk Jim Burk ... Trooper
Robert Warner Robert Warner ... Will Fain


McCandles Ranch is run over by a gang of cutthroats led by the evil John Fain. They kidnap little Jacob McCandles and hold him for one million dollars ransom. There is only one man brave enough, tough enough, and smart enough to bring him back alive, and that man is Big Jake. Written by Christopher D. Ryan <cryan@direct.ca>/edit TrivWhiz

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


They wanted gold. They gave them lead instead! See more »




GP | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



USA | Mexico


English | Spanish

Release Date:

26 May 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Million Dollar Kidnapping See more »

Filming Locations:

Rancho Marley, Durango, Mexico See more »


Box Office


$4,800,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$25,350,000, 31 December 1971
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Black and White (photographs in opening credits)| Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Another one of the pictures shown in the opening montage is of "The Breakers," a mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, completed in 1895, the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.. See more »


After the man corners big Jake in the shower, and says if he "doesn't stand still he'll be a lot colder", they show the hotel and the balcony rail is already broken. In the next camera shot of the balcony, the rail is still intact. See more »


James McCandles: Do this, do that! I'm gonna do whatever I want!
Sam Sharpnose: You do what he tells you, every time he tells you and we might come through this alive! Might even save the boy. Otherwise you're gonna get yourself killed. Don't matter to me, but you'll probably get him killed too, and that does.
See more »


Referenced in Golden Saddles, Silver Spurs (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Violently Good
19 August 2007 | by knight_hawk2002See all my reviews

From the outset 'Big Jake' will always be a firm favourite of mine, it's the first John Wayne movie I can recall watching, and this is the movie that has made him my all-time favourite movie star and actor.

The movie follows Dukes pursuit of seven kidnappers whom killed a large number of people at his former ranch (now run by his estranged wife) and kidnapped his grandson.

Up until this point in John Wayne's career he had by in large refrained from using excessive violence in his movies. However it could be argued and with some basis that movies such as 'True Grit', 'The Green Berets' and 'The Alamo' to name but three were physically violent in their own right. Regardless of this however 'Big Jake' was to be a dramatic departure for John Wayne due to the fact that on numerous occasions it give an honest depiction of physical violence. The opening shootout at the Candles ranch is a prime example of this, the sequence is extremely well executed by the director and stunt co-coordinators and there are many examples gunshot wounds which add to the realism of the movie.

The screenplay is rather slick with ample action included to satisfy audience expectations. The movie does contain many memorable scenes such as the opening and closing shootouts, Dukes casual killing of a would be assassin and some touching and at times volatile scenes involving Jake and his ex wife played eloquently by the great Maureen O'Hara.

An interesting segment at the start involves a voice-over retelling the transformation of the west from the early 1800's to its relatively civilised state in 1909 (when the film is set). The voice-over also introduces the audience to nine bandits whom act as the heavies in the movie, its fascinating to hear a brief introduction of each bandit and what skill they bring to the group e.g. Fain is the leader, O'Brien the gunfighter and John Goodfellow is proficient with a machete etc etc.

Duke in this movie is accompanied is his pursuit if the kidnappers by a trusted dog (who is very violent) an Indian friend played very well by Bruce Cabot, and his two on screen sons James (Patrick Wayne who is Dukes own son) and Michael (Chris Mitchum). The main protagonist in the movie is John Fain played superbly by Richard Boone and some of the scenes between him and John Wayne are very memorable containing both tension and style. John Wayne's youngest son John Ethan Wayne makes his debut in this movie playing the kidnapped grandson of Jake and acquits himself very impressively to the field of acting.

Despite my fondness for this movie it is not however without its weaknesses, for one the acting by both Patrick Wayne and Chris Mitchum is horrendous and neither one manages to endear the audience to their respective characters. Some sloppy direction also resulted in the disappearance of one of the Fain gang early in the movie, despite being given an introduction at the start of the movie; young Billy simply disappears without any explanation right at the beginning of the raid on the McCandles ranch. Several campfire scenes that are set at night appear much too bright; the director should have masked the lens on the camera more in order to ensure the scenes effectiveness. Finally several stunts involving Mitchum and a motorcycle come across as tired, overblown and generally dull although the director rightly erased the motorcycle from the movie quite early on much to the relief of the audience.

Critics were less than impressed with the movie stating that it was 'overly violent', these were the same critics who praised the Wild Bunch months earlier for being innovative and honest in its depiction of violence. Despite what he critics stated and some of the minor criticisms I have pointed out about this movie it remains a firm favourite and was a big box office hit when first released.

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