The Big Country

Retired wealthy sea captain Jim 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.

Credits: TheMovieDb.

Film Cast:

  • James McKay: Gregory Peck
  • Julie Maragon: Jean Simmons
  • Patricia Terrill: Carroll Baker
  • Steve Leech: Charlton Heston
  • Rufus Hannassey: Burl Ives
  • Major Henry Terrill: Charles Bickford
  • Ramón Guiteras: Alfonso Bedoya
  • Buck Hannassey: Chuck Connors
  • Rafe Hannassey: Chuck Hayward
  • Dude Hannassey: Buff Brady
  • Blackie / Cracker Hannassey: Jim Burk
  • Hannassey Woman: Dorothy Adams
  • Terrill Cowboy: Chuck Roberson
  • Terrill Cowboy: Bob Morgan
  • Terrill Cowboy: John McKee
  • Terrill Cowboy: Slim Talbot
  • Hannassey Watchman (uncredited): Roddy McDowall
  • Party Guest – Oceans (uncredited): Richard Alexander
  • Party Guest (uncredited): Harry Cheshire
  • Party Guest (uncredited): Ralph Sanford
  • Lefty Hannassey cowhand (uncredited): William Hoehne Jr.
  • Liveryman (uncredited): Donald Kerr
  • Party Guest (uncredited): Chuck Hamilton

Film Crew:

  • Orchestrator: Alexander Courage
  • Director of Photography: Franz Planer
  • Casting: Dorothy Whitney
  • Set Decoration: Edward G. Boyle
  • Assistant Editor: Hal Ashby
  • Producer: Gregory Peck
  • Sound Recordist: Roger Heman Sr.
  • Producer: William Wyler
  • Adaptation: Robert Wyler
  • Supervising Film Editor: Robert Swink
  • Sound Recordist: John K. Kean
  • Title Graphics: Saul Bass
  • Original Music Composer: Jerome Moross
  • Hairstylist: Joan St. Oegger
  • Novel: Donald Hamilton
  • Orchestrator: Gil Grau
  • Camera Operator: Fred Mandl
  • Screenplay: Robert Wilder
  • Screenplay: James R. Webb
  • Screenplay: Sy Bartlett
  • Adaptation: Jessamyn West
  • Editor: Robert Belcher
  • Editor: John Faure
  • Stunts: Buff Brady
  • Costume Design: Yvonne Wood
  • Orchestrator: Conrad Salinger
  • Stunts: Slim Talbot
  • Art Direction: Frank Hotaling
  • Second Unit Director: John Waters
  • Gaffer: Harry Sundby
  • Choreographer: Carey Leverette
  • Script Supervisor: Sam Freedle
  • Assistant Director: Ivan Volkman
  • Set Costumer: Neva Rames
  • Hairstylist: Gale McGarry
  • Makeup Artist: Dan Greenway
  • Makeup Artist: Harry Maret
  • Sound Effects Editor: Del Harris
  • Assistant Director: Ray Gosnell Jr.
  • Script Supervisor: Robert Gary
  • Orchestrator: Bernard Mayers
  • Second Assistant Director: Robert Templeton
  • Key Grip: John Livesley

Movie Reviews:

  • John Chard: I’m not going to go on living in the middle of a civil war.

    Retired sea Captain James McKay (Gregory Peck) arrives in the sprawling land of the West to marry fiancée Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker). With an amiable, almost pacifistic approach to life, McKay confounds the ranchers he is now mixing with. Particularly the Terrill ranch foreman Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) who takes an immediate dislike to him. Not only that but it seems that James has landed right in the middle of a family rivalry between the Terrill’s and the Hannassey’s: just as it’s about to fully ignite into war.

    Directed by William Wyler (Ben-Hur/Mrs. Miniver), The Big Country is adapted from a short story called Ambush at Blanco Canyon that was written by Donald Hamilton. Beautifully photographed by Franz Planer on location at the Red Rock Canyon in Mojave, California and at the three-thousand acre Drais ranch in Stockton, the film is epic in many ways. Though the story, with its twin themes of violence begets violence and you don’t have to act tough to be tough, is a thin one, it’s given such an operatic make over by Wyler that it’s not hard to be swept away by it all. Helped enormously by the afore mentioned Planer, music composer Jerome Moross, and an impressive and on form cast (Heston in superb tough guy mode and Burl Ives delivering a Oscar winning performance as head Hannassey patriarch Rufus), it’s a big production in many ways.

    Overall, The Big Country sees a small story made big as it’s told in an astutely classic style. With memorable acting, gorgeous scenery, big music and notable moments of action (a fist fight between Peck & Heston alone is epic and apparently took three days to get right) it’s a must see for the Western enthusiast. 8/10

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