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It's Tony's Pizza Night and "The Big Country" is on TCM


brianNH
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Dang, but I've really come to love this movie!  The Big Country.   From immediately being swept up into the sprawling landscape by the Jerome Moross score to the wonderfully hashed out storyline points, I'll admit that I come late to this fan club.  For oh so many years I wouldn't give this thing a look, but  about a year ago I actually watched it start to finish.  And how I was surprised!

I think it must be the one picture that has Charlton Heston in it, but that you wouldn't even know  he has all that much of a role -- Burl Ives, for crying out loud, is astoundingly memorable.  There are just so many finely drawn characterizations and storylines that keep me glued to my seat.   Even my wife is coming around to enjoying this as much as I do!  I brought her home from work just when the movie was starting, and she exclaimed, "Is  this that movie with Gregory Peck and that other one?"   Oh, yeah!

So if anybody out there  in TCM Message Board Land has any thoughts -- good or not so good -- about "The Big Country,"  let's read them.  I'm interested in knowing if I am alone in my estimation of the film or if there are others who share my unashamed enthusiasm for it.

Thanks,

Brian 

 

 

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BRIANNH,  I enjoy it when someone has such enthusiasm for a film as you have for "The Big Country".    I haven't seen it since childhood, I think, but do retain an impression of gorgeous, sweeping landscapes, almost like a series of paintings.  It was probably too fraught with "conflict" for me to really respond to at that age.  But your description piques my interest--   must record it the next time it's on.  Hubby would like it, I'm sure.

I love Charles Bickford --  can never get enough of him in films.

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It's a Red Baron's night for me, but I imagine I've arrived home too late to start The Big Country. I've seen it a number of times, however, and quite enjoy it. I'm not sure how Wyler talked rising star Heston into taking a secondary role and not an entirely sympathetic one, but he made it up to him with Ben-Hur a year later. Full confession: it's a long movie, and I don't always make it through. Generally, I bail about the time Gregory Peck is doggedly learning how to ride the bucking bronco. Lotta good performances in the movie. Burl Ives won an Oscar, though the fact he was in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof the same year didn't hurt. I especially like a surprising Chuck Connors as the slimiest of slimy villains. And Charles Bickford is always great. Not to exclude the females, I like the performances of both Carol Baker and Jean Simmons.

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MissWonderly3, (btw, I'm a sucker for a good Mary Astor photo!):  Pizza is, of course, Tony's.  Friday night staple here in semi-rural New Hampshire.  Just a sincere little $3 frozen pie to which we add our own pepperoni on special occasions, such as this evening's TCM movie fare.  Now there are those who will say that Tony's can't hold a candle to Red Baron -- and you'll get no serious argument from me as I can thoroughly enjoy a Red Baron as well -- but show me a Red Baron pizza box that has games on the back, and I'll tip my hat to  the new King of the Pizza Hill.  

As for the movie itself, I'm glad that there are fellow enthusiasts out there.  Long movies do present a problem, to be sure.  However, I was thinking about this tonight; and it dawned on me that unlike many big pictures based on novels, "The Big Country" plays out on the screen as a novel.  As a rule -- perhaps, not so much a rule -- westerns rely on action as a primary driver of the story.  "The Big Country" proceeds as character-driven, with great performances by all the cast -- thanks to Sewhite for pointing out a few.  

In my part of the country, there are still areas where the inhabitants live by an almost pathological sense of honor and justice, so Burl Ives and Charles Bickford make perfect sense to me.  

Thanks to you all for your comments so far.

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Lilypond:

I'm glad your interest is piqued.  Yes, by all means, give it a new look.  

There is something close to a running gag through the movie that everyone tells Gregory Peck that it is indeed a big country.  The landscapes, along with the themes of the story, simply spill out across Wyler's canvas; and Wyler handles it all so well.   For me, a most rewarding movie experience. 

 

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Well now that you've seen THE BIG COUNTRY again, Brian, let me offer up these ♦nuggets♦ of movie suggestions in case you've not seen these flix:

NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY, The (1966)  Fun stuff!  A mean bear named OL' SATAN further complicates Life On The Range for Clint Walker, Martha Hyer and other townsfolk.  And then a very menacing Leo Gordon shows up to rain on Clint's parade.  OH, LORDY!  :)   A Paramount feature in W/S.   Also stars Keenan Wynn, Candy Moore, Ron Ely, Nancy Kulp, John Doucette, Jack Elam, Victoria Paige Meyerink, Ellen Corby, Med Flory.

The 1971 Disney release THE WILD COUNTRY is a proper follow-up to "Night of the Grizzly", I think.  Despite the fact it's rated [G] . . . this is not one of those cheery Disney movies.  The main villain is part-psycho who goes ape over the possibility of sharing water rights + there's a violent fistfight in front of the Town General Store + some destructive tornado activity that's anything but cheerful.  I can't believe THE WILD COUNTRY would have been rated [G] had it not been a Disney movie.   With Steve Forrest, Vera Miles, Ron Howard, Morgan Woodward.  → Some Disney movies are obviously intended to be very "cutesy" and syrupy.  This Disney flick is not like that. 

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Thanks again, Mr. Gorman, for the movie selections.

"Night of the Grizzly" I've heard of and may have seen a long, long time ago on late-night tv.  The last time I saw it listed -- not too many months past -- I missed it for some reason.  I actually had co-workers once get the excitations over discovering that the local video store had a VHS copy of the movie, though knowing their spending habits as I did, I doubt they ever pooled enough dough together to buy the thing.

"The Wild Country" just isn't ringing any bells here at my end.  Seems like something I would have heard of, but I can't really place it.  Wasn't Disney around that time wading into some more serious subjects?  To be sure, there was often a Grimm-like fairy tale aspect to many of their family pictures, but I'm thinking that by the early 70's their story department began a different turn.  Now I only saw this one movie once, and I think it surprised me that it was Disney.  It had Fred MacMurray and Harry Morgan in it -- "Charley and the Angel" I think it was called.  It seemed to be a little darker in tone, but I could be remembering it wrong.

At any rate, I'll look for these two movies that you've clued me in on.  Always good fun.

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Anybody remember The Devil and Max Devlin with Bill Cosby as ... Satan? That got a G, I think, probably because it was Disney (think it was Disney). My mom let me go see it when I was in like second grade, which she probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't rated G. It was quite intense for a Disney film, especially near the end.

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@BRIAN in NH:  You mentioned former co-workers who were pleased to find the local video store carried NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY.   I bought an ex-rental Paramount tape of "Night of the Grizzly" for my video stash years ago from eBay.  The 1985-release videocassette is like a ▬ brick ▬.  The tape features " hi - fi " sound so you know it's sophisticated!  😉  Although the back of video box admonishes viewers using red lettering   "VHS Hi-Fi playback requires VHS Hi-Fi VCR".  Got that?  → If you wuzzn't sO-fisticated (sic) enuff by 1986 to have a "Hi•Fi VCR" you were like, nowheresville, man!  Ya dig? 

The DVD and Blu-Ray releases of "Night of the Grizzly" are considerably more sophisticated (and in W/S), but I keep hold of the aging video because it still plays well.  

One thing about old PARAMOUNT VHS tapes -- when you've watched enough of them -- the kind of equipment Paramount used to transfer the movie from a film print to the videocassette used to leave a kind of 'film grain' look to it.  Sometime in the late 1980s; 1987-88 or so Paramount had to have updated their transfer equipment because that distinctive "film grain-y" look was now gone from their cassettes.  (In other words, the picture was clearer).   

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3 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Anybody remember The Devil and Max Devlin with Bill Cosby as ... Satan? That got a G, I think, probably because it was Disney (think it was Disney). My mom let me go see it when I was in like second grade, which she probably wouldn't have done if it wasn't rated G. It was quite intense for a Disney film, especially near the end.

It was definitely by Walt Disney Productions (controversial for them on a couple of fronts) but it was rated PG.    It wasn't the first Disney film to be rated PG upon its original release.  That was The Black Hole, which came out a couple of years earlier. 

Some Disney  movies made before the MPAA ratings came out have been re-rated as PG, such as Treasure Island.  It had to be edited for its re-release in 1975 to get a G rating, but received a PG rating when those scenes were restored in the 1990s.

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On 11/5/2021 at 6:41 PM, brianNH said:

Dang, but I've really come to love this movie!  The Big Country.   From immediately being swept up into the sprawling landscape by the Jerome Moross score to the wonderfully hashed out storyline points, I'll admit that I come late to this fan club.  For oh so many years I wouldn't give this thing a look, but  about a year ago I actually watched it start to finish.  And how I was surprised!

I think it must be the one picture that has Charlton Heston in it, but that you wouldn't even know  he has all that much of a role -- Burl Ives, for crying out loud, is astoundingly memorable.  There are just so many finely drawn characterizations and storylines that keep me glued to my seat.   Even my wife is coming around to enjoying this as much as I do!  I brought her home from work just when the movie was starting, and she exclaimed, "Is  this that movie with Gregory Peck and that other one?"   Oh, yeah!

So if anybody out there  in TCM Message Board Land has any thoughts -- good or not so good -- about "The Big Country,"  let's read them.  I'm interested in knowing if I am alone in my estimation of the film or if there are others who share my unashamed enthusiasm for it.

Thanks,

Brian 

 

 

I love The Big Country and we've discussed the film on the bds before. What you didn't mention in your excellent post was Chuck Connors outstanding performance. To show his impressive range as an actor, he began filming The Rifleman  and The Big Country around the same time. The snivelling, cowardly,horrible son in The Big Country and the kind, smart great father in The Rifleman. No type casting there. Couldn't be 2 more different roles for an actor to play. and so convincingly in both.

That outstanding opening of The Big Country with that stagecoach moving so fast and that perfect theme music grabs you from the start. It's one of my favorite film scores. Over the years, I've watched the Big Country many times and it's a favorite. 

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The Big Country was a surprise to me the first time I saw it.  That title just seemed so lame 🙂  But it's a really entertaining film and yes, Ives is truly great.  He plays a larger than life guy, but somehow never chews the scenery.  His outbursts seem to come from inside and his motivation is clear.  Ditto the good feelings about Bickford.  

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5 hours ago, txfilmfan said:

It was definitely by Walt Disney Productions (controversial for them on a couple of fronts) but it was rated PG.    It wasn't the first Disney film to be rated PG upon its original release.  That was The Black Hole, which came out a couple of years earlier. 

Interesting. I'm getting my childhood chronology mixed up. That would mean I didn't see Max Devlin until well after Star Wars, which to my memory, was the first PG movie I ever saw in the theater.

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23 hours ago, brianNH said:

Now there are those who will say that Tony's can't hold a candle to Red Baron -- and you'll get no serious argument from me as I can thoroughly enjoy a Red Baron as well -- but show me a Red Baron pizza box that has games on the back, and I'll tip my hat to  the new King of the Pizza Hill.  

My grocery purchases are typically dictated by my pocket book more than personal tastes. I do 90% of my shopping at my local Kroger, and they seem to have certain food-manufacturing corporations with which they're particularly chummy. One brand of frozen pizza is on sale every week, it seems, and it routinely rotates between Red Baron, Digornio, Tostino's and the Kroger generic brand. Tony's is never on sale ever, not once, and so, consequently, I don't think I've ever bought a Tony's pizza in my entire life. I  had no idea they had games on the back of the box.

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21 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Interesting. I'm getting my childhood chronology mixed up. That would mean I didn't see Max Devlin until well after Star Wars, which to my memory, was the first PG movie I ever saw in the theater.

That would make sense if you saw them when they were first released.  Star Wars came out in 1977.  Devlin in 1981.

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Thanks. Yeah, Devlin must certainly have been the last straight up Disney live action movie that I watched, as I assume I thought I was way too cool for the brand at a certain point. If it had a PG rating, it might have been a selling point for me. The many intervening years have messed with my memory. Only remembering it was a Disney film made me assume I'd seen it at a younger age than I actually did.

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22 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

As I recall, Good Morning, Vietnam, which I think was rated R, was a Touchstone release, which I think was also a Disney imprint.

It was.  Ron Miller (Walt's son-in-law and CEO at the time) created Touchstone Films (later Touchstone Pictures)  in 1984 in order to produce PG-13 and R rated features , which he knew would never fly under the Disney label.  They reached out to financing limited partnerships (Silver Screen Partners II, III, and IV) to finance the more adult fare.  SSP I financed films for HBO.

Splash was the first Touchstone release.

After Disney became such a corporate behemoth after the Eisner years, Touchstone became a distribution company only and stopped being in the production end of the business.  They distributed a couple dozen Dreamworks pictures in the 2010 timeframe.  Since they now own the 20th Century label, they use those properties for their more mature content.

 

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Hey, everyone!  I love how the "Big Country" has wound around into a Big Topic, encompassing things from Paramount VHS tapes to which brand of frozen pizza is tops!  God, I do love these boards!

Sewhite:  Funny, that in my world and experience Red Baron pizza as always considered to be the gold standard of frozen pies!  It was always the most expensive and a real treat, available to us only when one of us got a raise or promotion or something.  Tony's, on the other hand, is by far one of the "cheapest" options when glancing down the frozen food aisle!  As a side note, in my part of the country we don't have Kroger, but I have lived in areas where Kroger was the main grocery store.  Just some regional differences that are all part of life's rich pageant.  

Stanwyck22 and Overeasy, thank you for your comments.  I'm glad that you  find "The Big country" so enjoyable.  Not to give anything away; but to me, those last scenes between Burl Ives and Chuck Connors are almost unbearably heartbreaking.  For two actors -- both of whom were not cinematic "stars" -- they nail their performances like no one else.  And this is all part of the way the movie works for me as a whole.  And why I tend to gush a bit here about it.  Thanks for listening.

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On 11/6/2021 at 1:15 PM, Katie_G said:

Can we get a consensus on the best frozen pizza?  I like lots of pepperoni and usually have to add my own black olives and extra cheese.

In my neck of the woods  ( ha !  always wanted to use that expression!),  there's a frozen pizza company, they're made right here in my town.  It's called "Dr. Oetker's Pizza", and they're delicious.   My husband, son and I often get some  ( okay,  three,   one each ...but they're "personal size")  to watch when we have a movie night.  They're really good.  also, they offer many flavours,  including several vegetarian options.  My son's a vegetarian, so that's nice for him.

Pizza, whether cooked from frozen or delivery from a pizzeria,  is ideal for a movie night.  Maybe I'll try and find a copy of "The Big Country" and settle down fo an evening of Dr. Oetker's pizza and Gregory Peck.

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I think maybe I have seen The Big Country, but it was so long ago I can barely remember it.  Judging by your post, Brian, and others here about the film,  I'm hoping to get hold of it and see it again.  I like all those actors--Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons,  Burl Ives,  Chuck Connors -- so that's a motivation to catch it, right there.  Plus,  William Wyler was such a talented director.    Thanks for bringing this movie to our attention !  ( and by "our",  I don't mean the "royal we",  I mean everybody here!)

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