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 Post subject: The Big Country
PostPosted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:14 pm 
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Directed by: William Wyler
Production year: 1958
Starring: Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston


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Plot:

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.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:14 pm 
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NOTE: This thread will be used for general talk of the movie The Big Country. If there's anything specific you'd like to discuss, please start a new topic in this section.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Fri Nov 19, 2010 3:13 pm 
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One of the very best westerns I've ever seen. I wrote the following on another forum I frequent:

This is one of my favorite westerns. I really blew me away the first time I saw it. I think Gregory Peck was excellent as the gentleman from east, whose way of thinking was very different from those raised in the south, the southerners comes off as savages in comparison. It's quite a clash between cultures, which I found interesting.

I absolutely loved seeing Heston play a sort of bad-*** bad guy, who deep down really wasn't a bad guy at all. Heston showed some of the range that some people say he lack as an actor. He worked well with Gregory Peck, hell, how could you not? Their infamous fighting scene was impressive and quite different, I liked that a lot. The supporting cast was a joy to watch, everyone did their parts very good, I especially liked Burl Ives' and Chuck Connors' father and son relationship.

The setting in which this movie takes place is breathtaking, the cinematography is top notch. Wyler sure knew how to make'm. This isn't your run-of-the-mill western, it's an epic in its own right.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:25 am 
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And to think Heston initially turned the film down since he didn't find the character interesting and wanted to focus on being the lead, and his agent scolded him, saying something like "You idiot, this is a chance to work with Gregory Peck and William Wyler!" (Peck at the time was still a bigger name than Heston and Wyler being one of the most well respected directors of the time). And then, a year later, Wyler directed Heston to a best actor Oscar with "Ben-Hur".

Good film, but I could never figure out what Heston's character, Steve Leech, saw in Pat Terrill. Peck's James McCay obviously didn't realize what a spoiled daddy's girl she was until he actually got out west, but Leech obviously had been around her long enough to know better. I guess his options were... limited.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:31 am 
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I too often wondered about Heston/Leech's attraction to Pat (Carroll Baker). As I got older, I began to figure it out - it was a basic attraction, a physical attraction; this is indicated in that scene where he grabs her and forcibly kisses her; it's basic lust. Leech, as with all of Heston's characters, is an alpha male and a guy used to being in control; he knew she was spoiled but this was part of the attraction. He figured once he married the boss's daughter, he would be able to control her. And, taming her (and her spoiled nature) was all part of the attraction.

I was really impressed with Heston here; up until I saw him in this role many years ago, I was always used to seeing him as the prototypical hero. I was surprised to see him as this thoroughly anti-hero, almost nasty kind of antagonist here and even more surprised at how smoothly he carried it off. As he got older, however, Heston excelled at being ornery and not all that nice, sort of that anti-hero mold. He was a rough, very imperfect leader in Major Dundee (you can't be a nice guy leading a bunch of wild rebels), a real ******* towards a fellow astronaut in some scenes in Planet of the Apes and I recall he had to be hardened as the older lawman in the otherwise average The Last Hard Men.

Heston did have a rep (on some of his films, mostly in the sixties) of being on the impatient side and the type that did not suffer fools gladly (he mellowed later). I wonder if his personality was instrumental in making some of his roles, like Leech, more memorable.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:03 am 
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Talk about fate. If he had not been in this and turned it down like he wanted to at first, he wouldn't have been cast as Ben-Hur. I wonder how his career would have looked like then? I think William Wyler was one of the best directors Heston ever worked with. He made two movies of him that I find are two of Heston's best movies with two of his best portrayals in his career. Good thing he had a manager that knew what he was talking about!

Though you can't blame Chuck for thinking the way he did. He had just played the lead in The Ten Commandments which was one of the biggest hits of all-time, then played in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil. It wasn't a very big part, though it was certainly a good one.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 6:59 pm 
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I wonder if this movie will ever get a respectable DVD or Bluray release, with a bunch of extras. It's classic western, perhaps a little underrated, but still a very respected western made by a legendary director and starring lots of A-list stars such as Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. The DVD has no extras whatsoever (a theatrical trailer doesn't count, IMO,) and that's just wrong.

There needs to be a 2-disc special edition made for this wonderful movie.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:43 am 
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For trivia's sake, I remember reading somewhere (perhaps one of the Heston books) that while filming BEN-HUR and simultaneously cutting BIG COUNTRY William Wyler suddenly decided that he wanted a close-up of Heston to insert into the BIG COUNTRY fight. Although they were in Rome, he had Heston made up to resemble his cowboy look and they went out and filmed an insert. Believe it was Heston who said that shot made it into the finished film.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:50 pm 
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Major Dundee wrote:
For trivia's sake, I remember reading somewhere (perhaps one of the Heston books) that while filming BEN-HUR and simultaneously cutting BIG COUNTRY William Wyler suddenly decided that he wanted a close-up of Heston to insert into the BIG COUNTRY fight. Although they were in Rome, he had Heston made up to resemble his cowboy look and they went out and filmed an insert. Believe it was Heston who said that shot made it into the finished film.

If that was in his autobiography, I have completely forgotten it. Very interesting piece of trivia there. Will have to look out for that close-up next time I see the movie.

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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.


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 Post subject: Re: The Big Country
PostPosted: Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:23 pm 
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Newspaper ad from The Milwaukee Journal - May, 1958.


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