“The Big Country” works on so many levels. If you haven’t seen it, you must. Here’s why:
William Wyler’s “The Big Country” is a magnificent and beautiful epic that breathtakingly sweeps through the open prairies of the west in the later half of the 19th century. Many have called “The Big Country” the “anti-western,” and that it is. And it is what makes this film approachable and refreshing.
The cast is top-notch. Gregory Peck plays a restrained and proud Eastern gentlemen who is engaged to a fiery western girl, who is still deeply under her father’s dog-eat-dog western mindset.
When Peck refuses to fight back after the local hooligans rough him up, he is looked on as a coward. Peck’s character is used to show the foolishness of the prideful, western ideals of most other Hollywood movies, which end with macho-shootouts until the dead outnumber the living.
But this film is counter-intuitive as a western goes. It shows the barbarity of clan feuds and the emptiness of using violent threats as the law.
The cinematography is stunning. The cast is engaging. (Burl Ives gives a wonderful performance in which he notched a Academy Award nomination. Charlton Heston gives a nuanced performance as the typical tough western cow-hand.)
This 1958 film is a gem. It’s going on my best western films of all time list. If you haven’t seen it, enjoy it today.