Cast and Crew: Elmer Bernstein (Score); Jim Davis, John Agar, Harry Carey Jr., Roy Jenson, Hank Worden
What It’s About: Jacob “Big Jake” McCandles (John Wayne) is estranged from his family, who have become rich under the leadership of matriarch Martha McCandles (Maureen O’Hara), rich enough to attract the attention of a band of thugs led by John Fain (Richard Boone). Fain’s men kidnap “Little Jake” (Ethan Wayne), Jacob’s grandson, in a bloody raid on the McCandles ranch that leaves many, including women and children, dead and “Little Jake”‘s father, Jeff (Bobby Vinton), seriously wounded. The outlaws demand a million dollars for the return of “Little Jake” and soon “Big Jake” has arrived to deliver the money. Jake’s two other sons-James (Patrick Wayne) and Michael (Christopher Mitchum) arrive, along with a squad of Texas Rangers led by blowhard Buck Duggan (John Doucette). James resents his father. Michael respects “Big Jake” but is a risk-taker and fan of technology, bringing along a motorcycle, an experimental 8-shot automatic pistol and a rifle with telescopic sight. The pair convinces the Rangers, in new-fangled autos, to try to cut off the outlaws at the pass-and a massacre ensues. “Big Jake”, meanwhile, has gone the slow and steady route, carrying the money-box on a mule and accompanied by his old Indian friend, tracker Sam Sharpnose (Bruce Cabot). He comes upon the massacre, gives the Rangers some water-all he can spare-then leads his estranged sons in a mission to save “Little Jake”.
Why Watch it Today?: John Wayne rode off into the sunset on this date in 1979. Big Jake is one of his best films of his last decade a well made shoot-em-up with a great supporting cast.
No trailer, but a clip:
Other Choices: Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist, which is both a good Western and a great farewell; any of the great films he made with John Ford (Fort Apache, 3 Godfathers, The Searchers, Stagecoach, The Quiet Man) or Howard Hawks (Rio Bravo, El Dorado); his late career role in The Cowboys; or his Oscar-winning performance in True Grit.