The Big Country (1958): Official trailer
The Big Country, which is on BBC 2 today, is considered one of the greatest Westerns ever made.
The Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Charlton Heston and Burl Ives was the favourite movie of sitting US President Eisenhower, who screened the picture at the White House for four consecutive nights.
However, shooting the story of a New Englander arriving in the Old West to a family feud was no easy feat at all for the actors.
Jean Simmons was “so traumatised” by her experience on the 1958 movie that she ended up not talking about it until the late 1980s.
When the actress finally opened up, she revealed: “We’d have our lines learned, then receive a rewrite, stay up all night learning the new version, then receive yet another rewrite the following morning. It made the acting damned near impossible.”
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The biggest source of clashes on The Big Country set was director William Wyler, who would go on to helm Ben-Her.
Although he and Gregory Peck had got on filming 1953’s Roman Holiday, the pair fought constantly on this picture.
It got so bad one day that the star ended up storming off set with Wyler telling the press: “I wouldn’t direct Peck again for a million dollars and you can quote me on that.”
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Peck and Wyler wouldn’t speak for three years until they eventually reconciled, but the director was indeed true to his word as the pair never made another movie together.
The filmmaker also clashed with Charles Bickford, who had feuded with him on the set of 1929’s Hell’s Heroes.
Wyler preferred shooting many retakes which would make the actor irritable, often refusing to say lines he didn’t like and not giving different performances between the multiple takes he was forced to film.
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