Movie Review: 'The Big Country'

by The Shadow

18 March 2005

This was one damn good movie. It was made in 1958 and starred Gregory Peck. Right there I should have hated it, as Peck was the perfect Hollywood Shabbos Goy. Only after he was dead did I learn he was actually a "Catholic." Some Catholic.

But Peck was not, by far, the only big name in this ultimate Western. There was also Burl Ives (was he every anything but great?), Charlton Heston (the guy on the TV actually said this was heston's best role), Chuck Connors of rifle fame, real White and purty Jean Simmons, and last, but hardly least, Charles Bickford (I used to think he was Joseph Cotton). Bickford had been in "Song of Bernadette" 13 years earlier as the parish priest and was impressive in both films. A real (as well as a reel) White Man.

In fact, this movie is a contender for either the best non-jew movie ever or the best jew movie ever. It was really hard to tell -- at least for me.

The movie is based on a book by Scandinavia-born Donald Hamilton. But it was adapted for the screen by Jessamyn West and Robert Wyler. West was a flaming Quaker and Wyler was the brother of the director, William Wyler. The Wylers were German-Jewish immigrants, and William was one of those Communist blacklists. So how could this be anything but a jew movie?

Well, if it was, the only jew characteristic was the theme of the movie, namely, that pacifism beats fighting. But for a pacifist movie, there's sure one hell of a lot of fighting. In fact, therein lies the only shortcoming I could see. Peck is in enough physical encounters to earn as many Purple Hearts as Kerry, and yet he's as clean and unmarked at the very end as he was in any of his other collar-and-tie movies. (Yes, he wears a collar and tie in this one, too.) He must have had a clause in his contract whereby he couldn't dress casually or get himself dirty.

When it comes to pacifism, I think most here will agree that pacifism among White men would have been great. There'd be a billion of us today. But I believe what the producers of this movie probably were after was a disarming of Americans here at home. I mean, they sure never wanted us to be disarmed against the Germans.

There was no overtly Jewish stuff that I noticed in this film. Not even a "for Christ's sake." There was a little sex, but it was a necessary part of the story and handled well.

You'd better have some time on your hands if you want to rent "The Big Country," though. Just short of three hours. But three hours of super entertainment, if you ask me, pardner.


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