The Big Country, 1958

One family struggling against another is a theme that has endured through the years. When each family is too proud to negotiate peace, it forces the hand of death. You’ve heard of Romeo and Juliet and the Hatfields and McCoys. Now meet the Hannasseys and the Terrills.

William Wyler directs this film about taming a long-time feud between two families. The camera tries to make you feel like you’re out there with the dust and the dirt. The writing twists produce a story that is expected but not stale. Big-name actors, classic plot, and a camera panning across a sweeping landscape gives the impression that this is a really Big movie.

Gregory Peck plays James McKay who doesn’t intend to let either of the families boss him around. His non-violent approach seems strange to the feuding families.

Jean Simmons is beautiful as ever as Julie Maragon, the woman whose land everyone wants – at a fair price. (Right.) Her friend, Miss Terrill was beautiful enough to bring a gentleman home to meet her father. The women did a great job in their roles. Both want a man, but don’t “need” him. Plenty of males to choose from, but they had manners enough not to fight over the one gentleman in town.

Charlton Heston gives a powerful performance as Steve Leech, the foreman who doesn’t give respect to those who don’t earn it. Strictly loyal to his boss, he must’ve been the son his boss never had.

Burl Ives plays Rufus Hannassey, the patriarch of a family who just wants to get his cows to the river during the dry spell. He’ll listen to reason if there’s any to listen to. Buck Hannassey is played by Chuck Connors who was an NBA and a Major League Baseball player before turning to acting.

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