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This 70-Year-Old Gregory Peck Western Still Has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes


This 70-Year-Old Gregory Peck Western Still Has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes


Summary

  • The Big Country, led by Gregory Peck, stood the test of time and earned a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • The film’s star-studded cast and innovative techniques helped it to become a standout in the Western genre.
  • Watch the timeless classic on MGM+, Fubo, or Pluto TV, and experience the visual storytelling for yourself.



Bringing an ensemble cast to the screen, led by Gregory Peck, The Big Country may not have made a major impact on its release in 1958. However, the film has gone on to be considered one of the best Westerns of the era and now sits at a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. This is due to various factors, but William Wyler’s epic Western has continued to get accolades from those who discovered the movie for the first time decades after its release.


We will look at the cast and crew behind The Big Country, the inventive film techniques that have earned it critical and fan appreciation, and the best way to watch the Western classic for yourself.


The Big Country Cast and Plot

New England sea captain James McKay, played by Gregory Peck, is caught up in a feud over a valuable patch of land when he visits his fiancée Patricia Terrill (Carroll Baker) at her family’s sprawling Texas ranch. The feud between Patricia’s father, Major Terrill (Charles Bickford), and the ruthless outlaw family, The Hannassey’s, led by Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives), causes constant tension. McKay, a man who admires peace, tries to mediate the conflict but only becomes isolated by both parties who are set on violence. This drives McKay into a romantic relationship with the landowner Julie Maragon (Jean Simmons), who is caught in the middle of everything.


Robert Wyler and Jessamyn West wrote the first screenplay for the movie, based on the serialized story of the same name by Donald Hamilton, which was running in The Saturday Evening Post. Donald Hamilton was one of the major American thriller writers of the 20th century and was best known for his work in the spy/thriller genre. Robert’s younger brother, William Wyler, would helm the film. William Wyler was a prolific filmmaker best known for his work on classics like The Best Years of Our Lives, Roman Holiday, and Ben Hur.

Gregory Peck, who had already become a familiar face to Western fans before The Big Country for his roles in such films as The Bravados, The Gunfighter, and Yellow Sky, played the lead role of James McKay. Caroll Baker played James Mckay’s fiancée; she is best known for her role in the controversial dark comedyBaby Doll, while Jean Simmons, best known for her role in Guys and Dolls, played the romantic interest, Julie. Burl Ives played Rufus Hannasy, for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; though he is likely most well known for voicing Sam the Snowman in the 1964 Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Other notable names in the Western genre rounded out the cast, including Charlton Heston, Chuck Connors, and Alfonso Bedoya.


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The Big Country Remains 100% on Rotten Tomatoes 70 Years After Its Release

Meeting with mixed reactions from critics on its release, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times going as far as to say, “For all this film’s mighty pretensions, it does not get far beneath the skin of its conventional Western situation and its stock Western characters.” The movie still managed a generally positive reception, with many praising the cinematography as accomplished for the genre and offering a solid Western story. The movie managed a moderate success at the box office, grossing $3.5 million in the US and Canada (Over 41 Million with Inflation). However, the film’s biggest fan is arguably President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who screened it on four successive evenings in the White House during his second administration.


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However, the movie has garnered continued appreciation and currently has an impressive score on Rotten Tomatoes, sitting at 100% critics score with 13 reviews and 91% audience score with over 5,000 ratings. This is largely due to the film’s visual presence using a new “Technirama” technique that would set the groundwork for many films to follow and solid storytelling, making it a standout in the Western genre decades after its release. The star-studded cast also helps, and Burl Ives’s Oscar-winning performance, particularly, is worthy of the accolades.


The many innovative production elements behind The Big Country have been extensively explored. Breton Film offers a two-part piece on every production element, down to the smaller details like the title cards. There are certainly ample elements to appreciate and break down. So it’s no wonder that decades after the movie’s release, many fans of the Western genre still hold it in high regard.

Where to Watch The Big Country

The film’s mixed reception on release and the lukewarm box office has led The Big Country to exist in relative obscurity. Still, it has found great appreciation among critics and fans alike, making it worthy of experience in the modern era. If you want to check it out, you can stream The Big Country on MGM+, Fubo, or Pluto TV. Alternatively, you can rent The Big Country on Apple TV+, Prime, or YouTube.


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