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According to a Sep 1957 HR news item, The Big Country featured one of the largest sets ever built on the Samuel Goldwyn Studios lot, a reproduction of the enormous “Terrill” mansion which covered two continuous stages. An undated press release in co-producer-director William Wyler’s papers located in the UCLA Arts—Special Collections, indicates that author Jessamyn West was to write the screenplay for The Big Country . West, who had written the stories and script for Wyler’s 1956 Allied Artist production The Friendly Persuasion (see below) was credited with co-adapting Donald Hamilton’s novel Ambush at Blanco Canyon . A May 1957 HR news item indicates that author Leon Uris was signed by Wyler and co-producer-star Gregory Peck to work on the script, but his contribution, if any, has not been determined. Ambush at Blanco Canyon was serialized in Saturday Evening Post but was never published separately in book form. Hamilton also wrote a novelization of the film which was published in 1957 under the title The Big Country .
       In a modern interview, Peck stated that after using seven writers, he and Wyler remained dissatisfied with the script, but financial commitments forced them to proceed with the production. A mid-Sep 1957 HR news item notes that Wyler contracted severe laryngitis during production and was hospitalized, closing the film down for several days. HR news items list the following as cast in The Big Country although their appearances in the final film has not been confirmed: Don Kennedy, Donald Kerr, Timothy ... More Less

According to a Sep 1957 HR news item, The Big Country featured one of the largest sets ever built on the Samuel Goldwyn Studios lot, a reproduction of the enormous “Terrill” mansion which covered two continuous stages. An undated press release in co-producer-director William Wyler’s papers located in the UCLA Arts—Special Collections, indicates that author Jessamyn West was to write the screenplay for The Big Country . West, who had written the stories and script for Wyler’s 1956 Allied Artist production The Friendly Persuasion (see below) was credited with co-adapting Donald Hamilton’s novel Ambush at Blanco Canyon . A May 1957 HR news item indicates that author Leon Uris was signed by Wyler and co-producer-star Gregory Peck to work on the script, but his contribution, if any, has not been determined. Ambush at Blanco Canyon was serialized in Saturday Evening Post but was never published separately in book form. Hamilton also wrote a novelization of the film which was published in 1957 under the title The Big Country .
       In a modern interview, Peck stated that after using seven writers, he and Wyler remained dissatisfied with the script, but financial commitments forced them to proceed with the production. A mid-Sep 1957 HR news item notes that Wyler contracted severe laryngitis during production and was hospitalized, closing the film down for several days. HR news items list the following as cast in The Big Country although their appearances in the final film has not been confirmed: Don Kennedy, Donald Kerr, Timothy Carey, Helen Wallace, Robert B. Williams, Harry Cheshire, Ralph Sanford, Sally Winn, Raoul Lechuga, Dorothy Whitney, Minta Durfee and Snub Pollard. A modern source lists Chuck Roberson as Peck’s stunt double.
       The film was shot on location outside of Stockton, CA at the nearby Drais Ranch, Red Rock Canyon, Jawbone Canyon and the Mojave Desert. The Big Country marked the final screen appearance of character actor Alfonso Bedoya (“Ramon”), who died a month after principal photography was completed. Burl Ives won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as “Rufus Hannassey.” Jerome Moross’ score, one of the most recognizable Western themes of all time, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Musical Score. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
Sep 1958.
---
Daily Variety
8 Aug 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
8 Aug 58
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jan 1957.
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 May 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jul 1957
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jul 1957
p. 13.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 1957
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Aug 1957
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Aug 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Sep 1957
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Sep 1957
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Sep 1957
p. 3, 9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Oct 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Oct 1957
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1957
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Nov 1957
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 1957
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Dec 1957
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 1958
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Aug 58
p. 3.
Los Angeles Examiner
11 Aug 1958.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Aug 1958
p. 1.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Aug 58
p. 945.
New York Times
8 Sep 1957.
---
New York Times
2 Oct 58
p. 44.
Variety
13 Aug 58
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A William Wyler Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir 2d unit
Dir 2d unit
Asst dir
Asst dir 2d unit
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog 2d unit
Cam op
Cam op
Asst cam
Key grip
Gaffer
Stills
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Draftsman
Draftsman
Draftsman
Leadman
Checker
Const foreman
Prop master
Greensman
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost des
Cost
2d ward
Ward cutter and fitter
MUSIC
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Hairdresser
Makeup artist
Makeup artist
Makeup sketches
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Asst to William Wyler
Scr supv
Scr supv
Loc mgr
Titles des
Casting
Unit pub
Office accountant
First aid
Transportation gaffer
Ramrod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Ambush at Blanco Canyon by Donald Hamilton, serialized in The Saturday Evening Post (Feb 1957).
DETAILS
Release Date:
August 1958
Production Date:
30 July--18 November 1957 at Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Copyright Claimant:
Anthony-Worldwide Productions
Copyright Date:
13 August 1958
Copyright Number:
LP12202
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Color
Technicolor
Widescreen/ratio
Technirama
Duration(in mins):
166
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18972
SYNOPSIS

Upon arriving in the small Western town of San Rafael, Maryland shipping magnate and former sea captain Jim McKay is met by his fiancée, the vibrant Patricia Terrill, daughter of cattle baron Maj. Henry Terrill. The foreman of Terrill’s Ladder Ranch, Steve Leech, accompanies Pat and mildly pokes fun of Jim’s formal Eastern attire, but Jim is not offended. Pat then drives Jim out of town to Ladder, but stops at the ranch of her best friend, schoolteacher Julie Maragon, to introduce her to Jim. On the long ride to the ranch, Pat and Jim are harassed by the Ladder’s neighbor, Buck Hannassey, and some of his Blanco Canyon ranchhands. When Buck playfully shoots off Jim’s bowler hat, Pat pulls her rifle, but Jim prevents her from firing. Although Jim is then roped and pulled off the wagon by Buck and his men, Jim refuses to resist and, believing that he is a coward, Buck and the men soon withdraw. Pat expresses amazement that Jim prevented her from using her gun and his response is delight at finding his hat unscathed. Returning home, Buck visits Julie to suggest that he and his father would like to join their land with her ranch, the Big Muddy, named after the valuable river that runs through it. Julie declines Buck’s blunt offer. The next morning, Jim refuses Steve’s attempt to goad him into riding the ranch’s wild stallion, Old Thunder, disappointing the ranchhands. At breakfast, Jim presents Henry with a gift of dueling pistols that belonged to his father, but when Jim expresses a distaste for violence, Henry advises him ... +


Upon arriving in the small Western town of San Rafael, Maryland shipping magnate and former sea captain Jim McKay is met by his fiancée, the vibrant Patricia Terrill, daughter of cattle baron Maj. Henry Terrill. The foreman of Terrill’s Ladder Ranch, Steve Leech, accompanies Pat and mildly pokes fun of Jim’s formal Eastern attire, but Jim is not offended. Pat then drives Jim out of town to Ladder, but stops at the ranch of her best friend, schoolteacher Julie Maragon, to introduce her to Jim. On the long ride to the ranch, Pat and Jim are harassed by the Ladder’s neighbor, Buck Hannassey, and some of his Blanco Canyon ranchhands. When Buck playfully shoots off Jim’s bowler hat, Pat pulls her rifle, but Jim prevents her from firing. Although Jim is then roped and pulled off the wagon by Buck and his men, Jim refuses to resist and, believing that he is a coward, Buck and the men soon withdraw. Pat expresses amazement that Jim prevented her from using her gun and his response is delight at finding his hat unscathed. Returning home, Buck visits Julie to suggest that he and his father would like to join their land with her ranch, the Big Muddy, named after the valuable river that runs through it. Julie declines Buck’s blunt offer. The next morning, Jim refuses Steve’s attempt to goad him into riding the ranch’s wild stallion, Old Thunder, disappointing the ranchhands. At breakfast, Jim presents Henry with a gift of dueling pistols that belonged to his father, but when Jim expresses a distaste for violence, Henry advises him that violence is the way of life in the West. After admitting what happened with the Hannasseys, Jim is taken aback by Henry’s fury and refuses to participate or sanction Henry and Steve’s plan for a retaliatory raid. Overhearing the discussion, Pat is puzzled, then irritated by what she assumes is Jim’s cowardly behavior. Later, while Henry and the Ladder men wreck havoc on the Blanco Canyon ranch, Jim remains with long-time ranchhand Ramon Gutierrez and gains his respect as he struggles to ride Old Thunder. Meanwhile, Henry, Steve and the Ladder men trap three of Buck’s men in town while Buck hides in a nearby trough as his men are tortured in front of the townspeople. That evening at the Terrill’s party to announce Pat and Jim’s engagement, Henry assures Jim that the raid on the Hannasseys was necessary. Pat continues to sulk over Jim’s behavior, but reluctantly joins the party. The festivities are interrupted by Buck’s father Rufus, who breaks in to berate Henry for the raid and persistent antagonism against him, which disturbs Jim. The following day, Buck pleases Rufus by confiding that he believes that Julie will accept his marriage proposal. Late that afternoon, Jim, disturbed by the rivalry between the Terrills and the Hannasseys, departs Ladder for an overnight camping trip on the range. Learning of Jim’s plans from Ramon, the Terrills and Steve are certain that Jim will get lost, and so go in search of him. Before leaving, Steve assails Pat for wanting to marry such a weak man. Although Pat tells Steve off for insulting Jim, in private she weeps in bitter confusion over Jim’s behavior. Out on the range, Jim passes the night without incident and in the morning rides onto the Big Muddy, surprising Julie. After showing Jim around, Julie relates that her ranch is the area’s sole water source and was deeded to her grandfather by the King of Spain. Julie admits that she wants to sell the property, but is dedicated to maintaining her grandfather’s policy of allowing both the Terrills and Hannasseys access to the water, knowing that should she sell to either family, they would ruin the other. Jim then offers to buy the Big Muddy, promising to continue Julie’s peace-keeping plan. Later, when Steve returns to the house after an unsuccessful search for Jim, a worried Pat encourages Henry to begin a new search. That evening, Jim rides into Henry and Steve’s range camp and once back home insists that he was never lost. Steve calls Jim a liar and challenges him to a fight in front of Henry, Pat and several hands, but Jim refuses to be baited into an argument. In private, Pat and Jim have a bitter argument when she demands to know why he continues to humiliate her by his cowardly behavior. When Jim asserts that he has nothing to prove, and offers to move into town, Pat agrees that they should rethink their engagement. Just before dawn, Jim awakens Steve and the men go far from the main house for a drawn-out fistfight. Afterward, Jim confounds Steve by commenting on the futility of their act. That afternoon Steve leads the Terrill men on a drive to force the Hannessey cattle away from drinking at the Big Muddy. When Rufus learns that several of his cattle have died due to lack of water, he orders Buck to bring Julie to Blanco forcibly to make a decision on Big Muddy. Meanwhile, when Julie visits Ladder and learns that Jim has moved into town, she confronts Pat, who angrily insists that Jim has behaved incomprehensively. Julie is incredulous, and insists that if Pat loved Jim she could never believe him a coward. When Pat declares that Jim’s behavior has shamed her, Julie reveals that Jim purchased the Big Muddy to give to Pat as a wedding present. Upon returning to the Big Muddy, Julie finds Jim and encourages him to return to Pat. Jim maintains that the relationship is irreparably broken, but that he intends to remain to work the Big Muddy. Just after Jim departs for town, Buck and his men arrive to take Julie to Blanco Canyon. Pat then meets Jim at his hotel, hoping to make amends, observing that Henry will be pleased to join the Big Muddy to Ladder. When Jim informs Pat that he will manage the Big Muddy his own way, however, she is outraged and walks out. At Blanco Canyon, Rufus tells Julie that he will hold her captive to lure Henry to the ranch to settle accounts. Rufus then suggests Julie can prevent the conflict by agreeing to marry Buck, but Julie is appalled, then reveals that she has sold the Big Muddy to Jim. That night, Buck attempts to force himself on Julie, but she is rescued by Rufus. When Buck turns on Rufus, he manages to fight off his son, but warns him that one day he will have to kill him. Meanwhile back at Ladder, Henry and Steve learn of Julie’s kidnapping and set off for Blanco Canyon. Alarmed, Ramon tells Jim, who intercepts the men, insisting that he can rescue Julie without resorting to violence. The men ride to the Canyon the next morning, but allow Jim to meet the Hannasseys alone. When Jim approaches, Buck tells Julie that he will kill Jim if she departs with him. When Julie implores Jim to leave, Rufus realizes that she is lying and that she cares for Jim. Rufus then intercedes when Buck attacks Jim, who is unarmed. Meanwhile, in the canyon below, Steve refuses Henry’s order to storm Blanco. When Henry determinedly sets off toward the Hannasseys’ alone, however, Steve and the other men eventually follow. At Blanco, Rufus is disgusted by Buck’s behavior and forces him to participate in a formal duel with Jim. During the duel, Buck cheats and shoots early, but only grazes Jim. Rufus is further humiliated when Buck then cowers in fear of Jim’s clear return shot. After Jim fires into the ground and turns to escort Julie away, Buck tries to shoot Jim in the back, but Rufus kills him. When Henry leads the men unknowingly into an ambush by the Hannassey men, Steve is wounded and a number of men killed. As the fighting intensifies, Jim leads Julie away, but Rufus stops him to declare that the battle should be only between him and Henry. When Jim informs Henry, he agrees to the challenge. With the Ladder and Hannassey men watching, Henry and Rufus square off in the canyon and kill one another. Steve weeps bitterly over the futility of the fight as Jim, Julie and Ramon ride off together. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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