The Big Country

1958

The Big Country

Critics Consensus

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100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 12

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,494
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Movie Info

In The Big Country Gregory Peck plays a seafaring man who heads west to marry Carroll Baker, the daughter of rancher Charles Bickford. Bickford is currently embroiled in a water-rights feud with covetous Burl Ives, so both he and his daughter are hoping that Peck can take care of himself. But Peck, who doesn't belief in fisticuffs, appears to be a coward, especially when challenged by Bickford's cocksure foreman Charlton Heston. The far-from-cowardly Peck decides to distance himself from the machismo overload at the Bickford spread, settling for a romance with headstrong schoolmarm Jean Simmons, whose water-rich lands are being fought over by the two warring ranchers. When Jean is kidnapped by Ives' no-good son Chuck Connors, Peck decides to take action. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Gregory Peck
as James McKay
Jean Simmons
as Julie Maragon
Carroll Baker
as Patricia Terrill
Charlton Heston
as Steve Leech
Burl Ives
as Rufus Hannassey
Charles Bickford
as Maj. Henry Terrill
Chuck Connors
as Buck Hannassey
Jim Burk
as Cracker
Dorothy Adams
as Hannassey Woman
Chuck Roberson
as Terrill Cowboy
Bob Morgan
as Terrill Cowboy
John McKee
as Terrill Cowboy
Jay Slim Talbot
as Terrill Cowboy
John R. McKee
as Terrill Cowboy
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Critic Reviews for The Big Country

All Critics (12) | Fresh (12)

Audience Reviews for The Big Country

  • Mar 10, 2019
    William Wyler's tricky Western about what happens when a big city (and perhaps college educated?) sophisticate (Gregory Peck) ventures into a volatile rural small town milieu, tricky because the "small town" is, in fact, the titular Big Country. "Ever seen country this big," one rube boasts. "Yes, I have," he replies before abruptly leaving the confused questioner. Interestingly, this is a two hour reply to the popular, pithy "book smart" insult. The reply is cleverly woven into several situations: a water rights dispute, a love affair power struggle, and a couple of father/son difficulties. The actors, the music, the cinematography are all good even if the story, and its point, are overlong. Worthy.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 06, 2018
    Neither cynical nor naive, the movie functions as an interesting repudiation of violence and the mid-20th Century masculine archetype.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • May 09, 2017
    A classic pacifist Western that feels always fluid (even with a long running time of almost three hours) and is most certainly an intelligent allegory of Cold War, boasting a memorable score and a great cast, especially Burl Ives in an Oscar-winning performance.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 06, 2012
    This film certainly lived up to the "Big" in its title, because it runs almost 170 minutes, and that's too much country for one man to handle. The only thing William Wyler seemed to love more than westerns were long movies. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that Michael Cimino actually stole Wyler's print of "Heaven's Gate" and marketed as his own film. Yeah, I know that Wyler probably would have told us, but when he watched the film in 1980, he must have decided to make the announcement after he finished, only to die of boredom in 1981, while he was still watching the film. Such a shame; he only had two more years to go on the film. Yeah, I know, I haven't seen "Heaven's Gate" yet, so I probably have no right to call it boring, but hey, if it's anything like this film, then, well, I'm probably still gonna enjoy it, just like I kind of enjoy this film. Of course, if it is anything like this film, then chances are, it will, in fact, be slow, because although I did still like this film, I wasn't just kidding when I said that this close to 170 minute runtime is too much country to for one man to handle. You can look up, down, left and right, but you will find few major genre determiners that would describe this massive film an epic, and quite frankly, they're right. The scope of this film lacks sweep and doesn't pump too much substance into the story, leaving development lacking, lengthy scenes to feel inorganic and the film, itself, kind of dull at points. Much of the film is quiet and dry in atmosphere, with limited intrigue and oomph, and it's made all the worse by the fact that, while the film does have enough material in its script to be somewhat lengthy, it still does not deserve to run close to 170 minutes. For long periods of time, absolutely nothing happens, and what does happen is padded out to no end, resulting in a 167 minute should-be epic that just does not warrant its massive length, one of the greatest sins a film of this type can commit. So, it's absurdly overlong, dry, underdeveloped, messily structured and slow, and yet it's still pretty decent, and I'll tell you why: Because it's old. No, but seriously though, this is a film given way too much credit by the critics for nostalgia's sake, even with its many, many flaws. This is a mess of a film if there ever was one, but it is a consistently watchable film, made so engaging by its many moves that are respectable, particularly when it comes to style. If nothing else, the film is beautifully-shot, not having the broad scope of the epic that it should have been, but still have a lot of dimension. For its time, the cinematography is something to behold, and now, it's still impressively bold and lively, with handsome lighting that will have moments of being purely awe-inspiring. The film's gorgeous look is enough to sustain your attention for much of it, and the just as excellent production designs help, recreating this world with a kind of rural touch found in most westerns, as well the bleed-over of then-modern times in an organic and immersive fashion. The production is elaborate, eye-catching and supplements the engagement, which would still dissipate, were it not for the charm that really saves this film. Now, remember that although this was 1958, it was still the '50s and very much plagued by some pretty bad actresses, and there are plenty to go around here. Of course, the real stars is Gregory Peck, who was then "the" definitive star of the show, and rightfully so, based on that voice alone. Well, sure enough, Peck is electrically charismatic, especially when he plays off of the other also sharply charming members of this colorful cast, giving the film some weight and humanity; maybe not as much to warrant the gratuitously mammoth runtime, but still enough to keep you going through all of the slow spots and low point, and render this film ultimately rather enjoyable. In the end (Yeah, I'm surprised this film ended eventually, as well), the film lacks the scope and intrigue to warrant its overlong length and makes that sting all the worse with spotty storytelling, limited exposition and overall slowness throughout, but the film goes supported by gripping photography and production designs that really bring this world to life, though not quite as sharply as Gregory Peck and company, all of whom boast the sharp charisma and chemistry needed to make "The Big Country" a charming and watchable classic piece, even with its missteps. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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