Both female leads are wonderful, and are portrayed with enormous strength; Jean Simmons, with her luminous eyes is the schoolteacher, and Carroll Baker is the tough daughter of rancher Bickford, and is too much like her daddy to make a suitable bride for Peck.
Among the many strong performances in the supporting parts are Burl Ives, and received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his gnarly old Rufus, Chuck Connors is his bad to the bone son, and Alfonso Bedoya, is a delight as Ramon, who along with a horse named "Old Thunder", provides some of the humor in the film.
The score by Jerome Moross is lovely (and received an Oscar nomination) and the cinematography by Franz Planner spectacular. The film was shot in the Yuba and San Joaquin Counties in California, as well as canyon country in Chinly, Arizona, and it is breathtakingly beautiful.
If you like a good screen fight like I do, this has a great one, "mano a mano" between Peck and Heston; it initially has no music, just the pounding of the fists and the men gasping for breath, and is very effective.
Romance, drama, and lots of action make this a film that appeals to many, and is suitable for the whole family. Total running time is 165 minutes.
Director: William Wyler
Studio: Mgm/Ua Studios
Video Release Date: May 2, 2000
Gregory Peck ... James McKay
Jean Simmons ... Julie Maragon
Carroll Baker ... Patricia Terrill
Charlton Heston ... Steve Leech
Burl Ives ... Rufus Hannassey
Charles Bickford ... Major Henry Terrill
Alfonso Bedoya ... Ramon Guiteras
Chuck Connors ... Buck Hannassey
Chuck Hayward ... Rafe Hannassey
Buff Brady ... Dude Hannassey
Jim Burk ... Blackie/Cracker Hannassey
Dorothy Adams ... Hannassey Woman
Chuck Roberson ... Terrill Cowboy
Bob Morgan ... Terrill Cowboy
John McKee ... Terrill Cowboy
Slim Talbot ... Terrill Cowboy
Donald Kerr ... Liveryman
Carey Paul Peck ... Boy
Jonathan Peck ... Boy
Stephen Peck ... Boy
Ralph Sanford ... Party Guest
Richard Alexander ... Party Guest, (Oceans)
Harry Cheshire ... Party Guest
It is said that Gregory Peck and William Wyler, erstwhile friends who had previously worked together successfully had a falling out over this film and never spoke for years afterward. Both were co-producers, and Peck became agitated over the fact that Wylie was working too slowly and the film was going 'way over budget. Wylie resented anyone else telling him how to make a movie. It also appears that three of Peck's children had children's parts in the film.
The fight seen between Peck and Heston is one of the high points of the film that has caused much comment, as it was filmed from a great distance, rather than close-uo.
Such details aside, the story depicts a sea-captain, James McKay (Peck) coming West to marry Patricia Terrill (Carol Baker). He walks straight into a personal vendetta between Major Henry Terrill (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives) over an old grudge, and the usual battle over water rights typical in many Western stories. McKay is a peaceful man who tends to avoid resorting to violence, causing his would-be bride to accuse him of cowardice.
Buck Hannassey (Chuck Connors) and Steve Leech (Charlton Heston) play supporting roles, each of whom has designs on the leading women in the story, leading to antagonisms. Ramon (Alphonso Bedoya) plays his part well, as a Mexican ranch employee. He was better in the Treasure of the Sierra Madre, I think, but he always turns in a good performance.
This is a good Western, with the usual scenery typical of the West. The plot is somewhat hackneyed, but is well-played and comes off well, thanks to the staff.
Joseph (Joe) Pierre
author of Handguns and Freedom...their care and maintenance
and other books