Monday, April 11, 2016

The Big Country (1958)

Michael and Pax discuss the 1958 epic starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Jean Simmons, Chuck Connors, and Sam the Snowman. Also: Pax talks about the TV shows Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, and The Wild Wild West, while Michael mentions Tumbleweeds (1925) and Jesse James (1939). Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck may come up as well.


  1. Jesse James:
    I've also read the book called "Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla" by Albert Castel & Thomas Goodrich. He was one of the leaders during Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas. Jesse and Frank James also rode with Quantrill and Anderson for a time. This book was interesting as it showed the savagry of Anderson and other "Partisan Rangers" in the Western theater of the Civil War. I have at least two biogrophies of Jesse James on my shelf to read. I've also seen almost every version of Jesse James on screen and most paint him as an antihero or robin-hood character. I know that isn't accurate, but it is the typical trope of the Western genre.

    Jesse James the Movie was a good Western as Tyrone Power and Henry Fonda are great casting for this movie. It's one of the best Jesse James movies made. Another film was The True Story of Jesse James (1957) which was good, but I'm sure how true it really was.

    The Big Country:
    I've heard of this film but have never seen this until now. The cast of this film was amazing! I'm a big fan of Gregory Peck, namely from Moby Dick among other notable films. Charlton Heston from Ben-Hur and others that come up connected to him. I've watched many of the movies with these two actors so I looked forward to seeing them together in a film.

    This was a very well done western of the same old range-war/faction story in the old west. But, this movie stands out with the cast and Gregory Peck in particular. Peck plays against type of the typical easterner-dandy come west to make his fortune or in this case to settle down. Normally the stranger who comes into town either takes one side to settle the War as the hero or becomes the villain who gets defeated by the hero son of the other faction. In this both factions are equally bad. Terrill's raid on the Hannassey's ranch showed him to be just as evil as Ives' Hannassey is. This makes it hard to root for either side in the range-war. So, you end up watching Peck to see what he does because I did not want to see him align himself with the Terrills. As soon as the movie moved toward the "Big Muddy", I began to see what would happen, so it was predictable in this sense.

    In this film, there wasn't your typical love triangle. More like a love trapezoid between Conners, Peck, Heston, Simmons and Baker.

    Burl Ives was surprising for me to see in this film as the main antagonist if not a villain. Both men, Hannassey and Terrill could be seen as villains in this film.

    My favorite Peck Westerns are: Yello Sky, The Gunfighter and The Bravados. My favorite Heston Westerns are: Three Violent People, Major Dundee, and Will Penny.

    Well worth the almost three hour runtime.

  2. Which Jesse James bios do you have? I'd love to add them to my bookshelf. Most of what I know about James is from internet research and I'd love to do a deeper, serious study about him one of these days.

  3. I picked up Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War by T.J. Stiles, it had the best overall reviews compared to others and I also got The Life, Times, and Treacherous Death of Jesse James by Frank Triplett (originally published in 1882).

    I also have a bio of Quantrill, Devil Knows How to Ride: The: The True Story of William Clark Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders by Edward E. Leslie, that will likely have something to say about the James Brothers.