Retired, wealthy sea Captain James 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 land 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.
Easily one of the most underrated movies of all-time.
I’ve read all of the comments about Wyler’s “The Big Country”. I don’t even remember the first time I saw this movie but I have never tired of watching it. William Wyler went to the vault and pulled out the often used theme, “the showdown on main street at high noon” genre that many directors had tired of and felt was the kiss of death to western movies of the day and he pulled it off in grand fashion. Why this movie has never received it’s just due has mystified me for years. Maybe the late ’50’s became the time of the “brat pak” movie genre, (“Rebel Without A Cause”), but the performances in this movie are classic. Jean Simmons was absolutely intriguing. As a man watching this movie, I soon realized what Mr. Peck would begin to see in this woman as the movie progressed. Just that little glimpse from Ms. Simmons as she measured up the man she would soon fall in love with had more sexual power than most flicks today that try to thrive on the sexual theme to sell theatre tickets.
This is not just a western. It is pure greatness from William Wyler and a cast that added strength to the film. Burl Ives and Charles Bickford played their respective roles with the intenseness and professionalism of a classic Shakespearean play and Charlton Heston was perfect as the antagonist to Gregory Peck. This film has no weakness and has gotten better with time.