Western Movie Rambles
Posted 29 August 2008 - 03:46 PM
I LOVE The Big Country, it was always a favorite western from the very beginning because I
practically grew up watching it on TV, along with the Anthony Mann westerns with Jimmy.
I think Peck's character is one of the most interesting and admirable in all westerns. And he's
an Easterner! (so was Doc Holliday, right?) What I love about him is that in most ways, he
really personifies the individualistic spirit that is such an integral part of the image of the western
Hero, and yet he's in conflict with all these westerners, mainly because he refuses to kowtow
to their notions of how he should behave. Or at any rate, he doesn't want to follow their schedule
for when he should do what he should do or for their reasons. As Jean Simmons alluded to Carol,
he seemed to have an unwavering fear of being accused of boasting.
This movie contains one of my favorite Charlton Heston performances. He's a very conflicted man
who comes across, at first, as very simplistic. In fact, I was thinking last night that all the members
of the Terrill household were extremely complex, and also extremely compelling and interesting.
I have to add that, while I hold Peck and Jean Simmons characters to be the nobler and more
exemplary of the entire story, they are rather dull really in comparison. For the first time, too,
I even considered maybe Peck was wrong to dump Carol. Not for his own sake, I think he'd
be more content with Jean, but for the sake of dramatic storytelling for once I'm glad we didn't
have to see them from the start as a couple. His and Caroles' complete mutual incomprehension
of one another is so fascinating to find within a western! They were so happy and in love when
she was wherever they met (back East?) but as soon as he showed up in her territory all
their differences suddenly sprang up in sharp relief.
One of my favorite exchanges is at the engagement party in the Terrill house when one of the
guests makes the oft-repeated observation to Peck that "it's a BIG country" and then asks
him if he's ever seen anything as big? To which Peck replies "Yes" and the guest is astonished
and asks "What?" "One or two Oceans." It's as if he insulted him by claiming anything could
be as big as their land (I suppose it's Texas, that's certainly Texas talk ).
Wonderful film about which I continue to find new things to admire. But then, I feel that way
about several of Wyler's best movies. Too bad he returned so seldom to the western genre that
started him out in his directing career.
Posted 28 August 2008 - 11:43 PM
I really like this movie. The contrast of Peck's way of handling things versus the west's way is a great outlet for the bigger conflict in the film. Peck proves that he is his own man and he won't be bullied or made to anything he is not ready to do and only for his own reasons.
A great cast. Ives and Connors are quite good in their unflattering roles. Jean Simmons and Carroll Baker are as lovely as they come but Baker's character is a little too self centered for my tastes (and Peck's.)
It might be a bit long but I think for an epic western it is most enjoyable.
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
Posted 28 August 2008 - 11:00 PM
What did you western fans think of The Big Country? I had not seen this one in YEARS--maybe even decades. In fact, I had the story all mixed up in my head when I first started watching it...but then everything started falling into place.
I liked it when Heston's character tried to get Peck to ride "Old Thunder" (the horse who couldn't be broke) and Gregory Peck was smart enough to figure out what was going on. The way Peck's character handled that situation told me everything I needed to know about who he was as a human being and how he was going to conduct himself for the rest of the story....and then later when he came back without the big audience and took the challenge on his terms....that was really one of my favorite parts. And wasn't Jean Simmons just LOVELY-even though she is really not made up to be the "pretty one" compared to Carrol Baker.
And boy oh boy--those two old men sure did hate each other. I think one of the most powerful moments was when Heston stood up to the Major and more or less told him he wouldn't be his "bully" anymore and all the men stood with him...and then when the Major rides off alone--one by one--they all show up riding through the canyon behind him--starting with Heston. It was such a powerful moment that said so much about how they all respected the Major-- and yet, all I could do was find myself wishing they were going for a more honorable reason then just the fact that the old man just really hated Burl Ives' guts. (kind of a sad commentary to see so many men display so much integrity for such an unworthy cause) Don't want to say too much more because I probaby am getting too close to "spoiler" territory.
I won't go so far as to say this is one of my favorite westerns--but I was really glad to be able to see it tonight. And despite the strong cast and the powerful story, for me the best part of this entire film was the SCENERY!! Que' Bonita!! (By the way--the little ranch hand guy--Ramon--also one of my favorite parts) :-)
Thanks for letting me share...Feel free to "Ramble On"
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