Big Jim McLain (1952)

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    Photo with the courtesy of lasbugas


    Plot Summary
    U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain
    and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii
    (ignoring somewhat, as do their superiors in the Congress, that membership
    in the Communist Party was, at the time, legal in the U.S.)
    Summary written by Jim Beaver

    Full Cast
    John Wayne .... Jim McLain
    Nancy Olson .... Nancy Vallon
    James Arness .... Mal Baxter
    Alan Napier .... Sturak
    Veda Ann Borg .... Madge
    Hans Conried .... Robert Henried
    Hal Baylor .... Poke
    Gayne Whitman .... Dr. Gelster
    Gordon Jones .... Olaf
    Robert Keys .... Edwin White
    John Hubbard .... Lt. Cmdr. Clint Grey
    Soo Yong .... Mrs. Namaka (as Madame Soo Yong)
    Dan Liu .... Dan Liu, Honolulu Chief of Police
    Vernon 'Red' McQueen .... Phil Briggs (as Red McQueen)
    Peter Brocco .... Dr. Carter (uncredited)
    Franklyn Farnum .... Nightclub extra (uncredited)
    Robert Fellows .... Soldier boarding ship (uncredited)
    Paul Fix .... Voice of Chauncey (uncredited)
    Bess Flowers .... Nightclub extra (uncredited)
    William Forrest .... J.E. Lowry (McLain's supervisor) (uncredited)
    Sam Harris .... Nightclub extra (uncredited)
    Douglas Henderson .... J.J. Donahue (soldier boarding ship) (uncredited)
    Paul Hurst .... Mr. Lexiter (uncredited)
    Edwin Layton .... Himself (uncredited)
    Harry Morgan .... Narrator (uncredited)
    Sarah Padden .... Mrs. Lexiter (uncredited)
    Jeffrey Sayre .... Nightclub dance extra (uncredited)
    Bert Stevens .... Nightclub dance extra (uncredited)
    Deane S. Tavennier .... HUAC Committee member (uncredited)
    Harry Tyler .... Waiter (uncredited)
    Peter Whitney .... Commie truck driver (uncredited)
    Jay Wilsey ... Mr. Whalen (uncredited)

    Writing Credits
    Richard English story
    James Edward Grant screenplay
    Eric Taylor story
    William Wheeler story (uncredited)

    Original Music
    Paul Dunlap
    Arthur Lange
    Emil Newman
    Hugo Friedhofer (uncredited)
    Robert Wiley Miller

    Non-Original Music
    Max Steiner (stock music) (uncredited)

    Archie Stout

    Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
    Andrew V. McLaglen

    Edwin Layton has a cameo that was arranged by the studio as a favor for getting permission for John Ford to film the actual Midway battle. Layton was the Pacific Fleet's Fleet Intelligence Officer at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

    The first film produced by Wayne-Fellows Productions (later renamed Batjac Productions), John Wayne's independent production company.

    Many scenes filmed in public places such as the restaurant scene with Gordon Jones appear to be "stolen", as the bystanders seem to be watching the scenes being played out rather than act like extras who normally do not pay attention to the action.

    The German title is "Mathuana". In this dubbed version for the German market John Wayne plays a hunter of marijuana smugglers, not an investigator for the Un-American Activities Commitee ferreting out Communists, as in the original 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 of Big Jim McLain (1952).

    # Continuity: When Olaf comes out of the house and sees Jim talking to Madge, the background changes between the wide shot of the three of them and the close-up of Olaf getting the axe.

    # Continuity: When Jim returns one morning from looking for Baxter's murderer, he finds Nancy asleep. The amount of the rug covering Nancy changes between when he kisses her and when she wakes.

    # Revealing mistakes: When the plane taking McLain to another island begins taxiing, the door is still partly open.

    Filming Location
    Pearl Harbor, O'ahu, Hawaii, USA
    Moloka'i, Hawaii, USA
    Waikiki, O'ahu, Hawaii, USA
    Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii, USA

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited 11 times, last by ethanedwards ().

  • 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.

    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.

    Its 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!"

    Strange old film this one, and one that Duke got a lot of stick for.
    Personally I enjoy this movie, particularly as it features,
    a visit to the wreck of the USS ARIZONA, a visit,
    that I am proud to have taken myself.

    Duke played well as a HUAC agent, and with Duke's
    Americanism at its peak, one could have expected no less
    from the great man, on the matter of communism.

    James Arness, his protege, was his sidekick, not for long though.
    Nancy Olson, was Duke's. not so convincing, love interest.
    Although I enjoy the film, it was not well received.

    The response was negative,


    More action, and less talk

    When the film was released, critics found it no more,
    than crass anti-Red propaganda, with some reviewers,
    even labeling it, irresponsible.

    Consequently, the picture was a disappointment at the box office.
    However, against the critics, wrath,
    I enjoyed the film, for what it was!

    User Review


    A more gentlemanly John Wayne
    22 December 2004 | by moonspinner55 (las vegas, nv)

    The Duke (in ties and jackets?) ferrets out Commies in Hawaii along with strapping partner James Arness. For a movie so obviously filled to the brim with machismo, the results surprise us with just a scene or two of fisticuffs and much more romance between Wayne and Nancy Olson (who moves quickly, and can you blame her?). The black-and-white cinematography is quite beautiful, with silvery shots of the tropics in all their '50s splendor. "Big Jim McLain" features one of John Wayne's best walk-throughs; he looks a little sheepish, but he's so amiable you forget he's really not in character. The drama at hand is tidied up rather quickly, yet the film is directed with a steady hand and has an easy-going pace. Its flag-waving stance is 100% purple heart-patriotic, but that's certainly in keeping with the era, as well as with Wayne's all-American persona. *** from ****

    Best Wishes
    London- England

    Edited once, last by ethanedwards ().

  • One of the Duke's lesser known efforts, it is not available on DVD at this time (at least that we could find). Amazon has it on VHS, for under $10 including shipping.

    This is a movie that we enjoy, especially having visited the Arizona Memorial, as did Keith. I also have a similar anti-Communist outlook as Mr. McLain. :angry:

    Chester :newyear:

  • Hi,
    I have this movie on VHS and watched it some time ago. Certainly not on the top of my favorite movies, but it was very interesting to see it and I can't say that I wasn't enjoy it.
    I must see it again, when I can add something. For a pity I can't compose big revews.
    Vera :rolleyes:

  • Big Jim rarely gets mentioned because not many have seen it? I haven't :(

    I don't believe in surrenders.

  • Quote

    Originally posted by etsija@Nov 22 2006, 03:25 PM
    Big Jim rarely gets mentioned because not many have seen it? I haven't :(


    Most Duke fans, of course,
    would have, some copy of this movie!
    it's just not as popular as others!

    Congratulations on reaching

    100 POSTS

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi,
    I watched this movie again yesterday evening and I\m sure have double feelings about it.
    It is sure publisistic movie and very pathetic - all that beginning with familiar music tunes and question from the grave: How America stands?

    And I\m sure like romantic line in the movie between Jim and Nancy. And parts with comic relief I'm sure enjoy.

    But the part conserning communist can have my whole approvment after all.
    I was never communist myself, but living some adult years in socialist country (it was never called communist) I can tell that it wasn't exacly as you can imagine or as it is pictured in Clancy books. The things were much more complicated.

    Other thing about democracy. I'm belive that the state of any kind can't dictate how the citizen must feel or thing. If the democratic government began such thing and started the "witches hunt" it can't be called democratic. Because the same thing was here from the other point of view.

    And all this blacklisting about which I have read sure ruined many peoples life, who wasn't communists only left winged in their thoughts.

    I'm sorry, if I offended somebody. :(

  • Hi Vera

    For someone who can't compose long reviews you haven't done a bad job, and don't worry about upsrtting anyone, you haven't and you wont. As you say it has its place in history in all countries, but hopefully that is what it is history.



    Walk Tall - Talk Low

  • Hi Vera

    I agree totally, with Arthur.
    Your insight, was expressed very well.
    And as Arthur says, history is past,
    and hopefully, one day, we will all learn
    from, our mistakes, if mistakes are what we made

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Hi Arthur and Keith,
    Thank you for kind words. You sure encourage me to participate here. And I can see again that here is the best place on the net.
    Vera :rolleyes:

  • Hi Robbie,

    Thanks for your post, which sent me scurrying back
    to where that information came from!!

    According to
    Duke: The Life and Image of John Wayne.

    John Wayne:American
    says this


    The movie played to enthusiastic audiences,
    ...the film was a solid hit... ranking
    27th. in the 1952 top grossing movies.

    Well there you are, two opposite views
    from two credible sources.

    Who are we to believe??
    On reflection, I think
    we should believe
    the account
    as written in
    John Wayne: American

    Thanks for bringing the point up.

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • I did a little more research and found the following article.

    Once again, the West Coast reception of ”Blood Alley" was more positive than that of it Eastern counterpart. The Critic Philip Schewer described it as "a good movie of the old epic school," (Los Angeles Times, September 29, l955). In the end, "Blood Alley" was less popular at the box-office than either ”Big Jim McLain" or ”Sea Chase," grossing in domestic rentals two million dollars.

    According to the IMDB Big Jim Mclain cost $825,000 to make and grossed in over 2 million that therefore would make it a hit.



  • Hi Robbie,

    Those box office figures were also
    discussed in
    John Wayne: American

    So the movie was indeed a credible hit.
    So that makes at least one book incorrect!

    Best Wishes
    London- England

  • Vera - there is no way that you would offend anyone here. It is refreshing to get a viewpoint of someone who has a point of reference from within as it were. Unfortunately, the "communist witch hunts" and racist elements in our history are a documented part of U.S. history which can't be discounted :uhuh: . As a human society, we can only strive to better ourselves toward our fellow man ^^ .
    Now is the time to get off my soapbox and quit playing philosopher.
    Cheers - Jay :D

    Cheers - Jay:beer:
    "Not hardly!!!"

  • Saw this for the first time the other day on free-to-air(which surprised me).

    I liked it, however it definitely wasnt Duke at his best.

    Bek :)

    The youngest member of the JWMB! And proud Cowgirl!

  • I have only seen this film once when it was aired recently I think twice on the BBC.

    I wouldn't be surprised if it was on the "banned list" until then.

    It is not a great John Wayne movie but at the same time it is not bad.

    I honestly think it got a bad press because of what was happening in the USA
    at the time of its release.

    As you say a rare John Wayne movie which I think was Warner or Batjak produced which must someday appear on DVD.


  • Quote

    Originally posted by Jay J. Foraker@Nov 27 2006, 08:21 AM
    Vera - there is no way that you would offend anyone here. It is refreshing to get a viewpoint of someone who has a point of reference from within as it were.


    AMEN, Jay!

    Vera, I second Jay's comments, and appreciate you sharing your thoughts here!

    Chester :newyear:

  • I have not seen this film in years. This film was done at a Very Different time in U.S. and World History and many of the People in Hollywood did not Like The Film Or John Wayne The Duke. We thought that the U.S.S.R. and The Chinese Communist were coming Very Soon! :fear:

    But in the early 1950s when it was Filmed it was Very Difficult Time in the World. :( The U.S.A. had used the A-Bomb to End W.W. 2 and the U.S.S.R at this time had the Bomb also and We were afraid they were going to use it on the U.S.A. :fear2:

    Most of the People Outside of Hollywood Liked the Film. At that time Hollywood was Loaded With Card Caring Communist and Duke was One of the People that was Leading the Charge against the Communist in Hollywood in the U.S. at this time. :cowboy::D

    I know a little about this time in U.S. History as I was Flying in one of those B-29s at this time With One Of "Those Bad Things Aboard" and Thought That We would be Ordered to Drop it At Any Time on the Target that We had been Given Earlier in the U.S.S.R. :dead: