Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Big Country (1958) [UR] ****

This western has the same sweeping visual beauty, and the same thrilling, evocative soundtrack that it did when first released in 1958.

This is a story about love and honor in the Old West. Jim McKay (Gregory Peck), a wealthy former sea captain, journeys west to marry Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker), a strong-willed girl he met back East. McKay finds himself in the middle of a water-rights struggle between her cattle-ranching father, played by Charles Bickford, and a neighboring cattle rancher, played by Burl Ives. Both men depend on a river flowing between their ranches, on land owned by a lovely school teacher, Julie Maragon, (Jean Simmons).

Ironies abound in this film. McKay is young enough to be the son of either rancher, but he plays the adult mediator of their adolescent feud. McKay gained wisdom and maturity as a sea captain on the boundless oceans, but finds himself landlocked, and in the middle of a dispute over water. The richness and beauty of the landscape and the music is equaled by the richness and complexity of the characters. And, at its core, this is a story about destiny, and how a young woman is the catalyst for a man to make a long journey, exchange one life for another one, bring peace to the country and find true love.

This is a beautiful, timeless film, one that you will remember with fondness, long after the credits have rolled. Gregory Peck and Jean Simmons are true Hollywood royalty. For an example of Peck's later work, I recommend Old Gringo, and for Simmons, How to Make an American Quilt.

Labels: drama, romance, western

Internet Movie Database
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=67, viewers=78)

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