Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Overlooked Movies: The Big Country

Not overlooked but one I felt like writing about.  I may have mentioned before that the soundtrack LP was the first soundtrack I ever bought, and I liked the movie a lot, too.  It's based on a novel by Donald Hamilton, so it was my first encounter with him, though I didn't pay any attention to that at the time.  It was only a few years later when I discovered the Matt Helm series that I went back and read Hamilton's westerns.

The story is complicated, so I won't go into all of it.  Gregory Peck, playing it noble, is a former sea captain who comes to live on a ranch owned by Charles Bickford.  Peck is engaged to Bickford's daugher, played by Carroll Baker.  Charlton Heston is the ranch foreman who doesn't like Peck because he thinks Peck is a coward.  That's far from the case, but Peck keeps doing things that turn people against him, including Bickford and Baker, because of his meekness.  The town's schoolmarm is Jean Simmons, and she owns a ranch with water being used by both Bickford and Burl Ives, a rancher with a crude following.  Chuck Connors has a great turn as his villainous son.  

There are duels, gun battles, and an epic fistfight between Heston and Peck, one of the best on film.  The title gets repeated a lot in the dialogue.  I never seem to include this film in any list of the Ten Best Westerns, but it's still a favorite.

4 comments:

Todd Mason said...

And, at least in the script, a reasonably potent metaphor for the Cold War (does the novel have such overtones?). In that context, Simmons being English even adds to the mix.

Happy New Year, Bill, to you and yours.

Bill Crider said...

The way I remember it, the movie is pretty much like the book.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved it as kid but haven't seen it since. What happened to Carol Baker anyway.

Bud said...

Ah, great minds think alike 8-) This movie "is "owned" by Ives & Bickford, but would not be nearly as good without the other excellent cast members and the music!
A western writ and directed large!