I just finished watching an undistinguished 1957 horse opera called The Big Land starring Alan Ladd and Virginia Mayo on Turner Classic Movies. (It’s a low-key Saturday). The movie tells the story of a group of farmers in post-Civil War Kansas teaming up with some Texas cattlemen bringing their herds north as together they hope to create a large and diverse enough new market to convince the Kansas Pacific Railroad to build a spur off its Kansas City line to handle the new town’s business.
It’s a good strategy, but also a major threat to a sinister Missouri cattle buyer who holds a monopoly on the current market and tightly controls the prices paid to the Texas ranchers. So when the new town begins to get built and another group of cattle buyers are brought in to bid on the herds about to arrive, the ruthless Missouri buyer rides in a gang of hired guns to intimidate the town folk and the new buyers.
Without any law enforcement in the new town the hired guns kill one of the Chicago buyers and also Edmond O’Brien, Alan Ladd’s business partner and the town father. The cattle buyers from Omaha, Chicago and Cincinnati are properly cowed and prepare to flee, meaning the demise of the new enterprise. Not until Aland Ladd returns from Texas with his herd to face down the bad guys does he get the girl, and give the new town its chance for a prosperous future. It’s the Wild West in all its 1950s Hollywood Technicolor re-creation.
We might as well be talking about the modern day sport of track and field, minus the Alan Ladd character. Continue reading