Big Jim McLain

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Big Jim McLain
Bigjimmclain.jpg
Directed by Edward Ludwig
Produced by Robert M. Fellows
John Wayne
Written by Richard English (story)
James Edward Grant
Eric Taylor
Starring John Wayne
Nancy Olson
James Arness
Alan Napier
Veda Ann Borg
Music by Paul Dunlap
Art Lange
Emil Newman
Cinematography Louis Clyde Stoumen
Archie J. Stout
Edited by Jack Murray
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • August 30, 1952 (1952-08-30)
Running time 90 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $2.6 million (US rentals)[1]

Big Jim McLain is a 1952 political thriller film starring John Wayne and James Arness as HUAC investigators hunting down communists in the post-war Hawaii organized labor scene. Edward Ludwig directed.

Plot[edit]

House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter come to Hawaii to track Communist Party activities. They are interested in everything from insurance fraud to the sabotage of a U.S. naval vessel.

After receiving useful information from a reporter named Briggs, the agents begin searching for Willie Nomaka, a party treasurer, who allegedly has experienced a nervous breakdown and has been seeing Dr. Gelster, a psychiatrist. The doctor's secretary, Nancy Vallon, is helpful as well. She is a widow; McLain asks her on a date, and a romance develops.

Nomaka's landlady, Madge, assists in the investigation, flirting with McLain. Nomaka's ex-wife also helps him. He is eventually found to be staying in a sanitarium, heavily drugged and unable to speak.

Party leader Sturak gives orders to Dr. Gelster to get rid of him. Gelster also kills McLain's partner, Baxter, by mistake with an injection of truth serum.

As the investigators close in, Sturak attempts to make Gelster confess to his party membership so the case can be closed and so others can continue their nefarious work. Their meeting is interrupted by McLain who instigates a brawl. Police arrive to place party leaders under arrest, but ultimately he and Nancy Vallon see them plead the Fifth Amendment and go free.

Cast[edit]

Production notes[edit]

  • The film was shot entirely on location in Hawaii and includes scenes of Pearl Harbor, Molokai, Waikiki and Honolulu 30 April- 16 June 1952.
  • Several of the people cast in the film were Honolulu citizens: Honolulu Chief of Police Dan Liu, news reporter Vernon "Red" McQueen, wrestling champion Zinko "Lucky" Simunovich, University of Hawaii professor Joel Trapido, Bishop Kinai Ikuma, Sam "Steamboat" Mokuaki, Charles "Panama" Baptiste, Rennie Brooks, Akira Fukunaza and Ralph Honda.
  • World Premiere was in Kohio, Hawaii on 28 August 1952.
  • The film was rushed into release to beat two other John Wayne films, RKO's The Jet Pilot, which was not released until 1957, and Republic's The Quiet Man.
  • After the opening credits, a voice-over narrator recites quotes from the short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Bent, immediately followed by a voice-over tribute to the House Committee on Un-American Activities for its pursuit of inquiries "undaunted by the vicious campaign of slander launched against them.
  • A title card at the end of the film states that the incidents in the film were based on the files of the Committee, although names and places were changed, and acknowledges the cooperation of the Committee in the making of the film.
  • Nancy Olson hated the script but she figured six weeks in Hawaii and a chance to work with an icon like John Wayne seemed a good enough reason to accept. Besides, she thought the film would flop and nobody would see it. She was right to a degree - it wasn't one of Wayne's more successful pictures - but she didn't count on the constant TV exposure it has had and says people stop her all the time to say they've seen her in the film. Olson, a staunch liberal Democrat, said she and Wayne would often have political arguments but she would always let Wayne have the last word.
  • John Wayne recorded an advertisement for Camel cigarettes on the set.
  • The film has developed something of a cult following due to a perceivedly now-campy red scare theme. In some European markets the film was retitled as Marijuana and dispensed with the communist angle, making the villains drug dealers instead. This was achieved entirely through script changes and dubbing.
  • The film's publicity slogan was: "He's A Go-Get-'Em Guy for the U.S.A. on a Treason Trail That Leads Half-a-World Away!"

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953

External links[edit]