It's a Big Country

It's a Big Country: An American Anthology is a 1951 anthology film consisting of eight segments directed by seven directors: Clarence Brown, Don Hartman, John Sturges, Richard Thorpe, Charles Vidor, Don Weis, and William A. Wellman.

It's a Big Country
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Thorpe
John Sturges
Charles Vidor
Don Weis
Clarence Brown
William A. Wellman
Don Hartman
Produced byRobert Sisk
Written byEdgar Brooke
Ray Chordes
Claudia Cranston
Helen Deutsch
Dorothy Kingsley
Isobel Lennart
William Ludwig
John McNulty
Joseph Petracca
Dore Schary
George Wells
StarringEthel Barrymore
Gary Cooper
Van Johnson
Gene Kelly
Janet Leigh
Marjorie Main
Fredric March
George Murphy
William Powell
James Whitmore
Nancy Davis
Music byAlberto Colombo
Adolph Deutsch
Johnny Green
Bronislau Kaper
Rudolph G. Kopp
David Raksin
David Rose
Charles Wolcott
CinematographyJohn Alton
Ray June
William C. Mellor
Joseph Ruttenberg
Edited byBen Lewis
Frederick Y. Smith
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 20, 1951 (1951-11-20)
Running time
89 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$655,000[1]


A professor traveling on a train is asked by a fellow passenger if he too loves "America". The professor then asks: "Which America?" This provides a lead-in for multiple tales of American life. There is the tale of Mrs. Riordan, an elderly lady from Boston. She is upset about not having been counted in the 1950 census. She asks a newspaper editor named Callaghan to intervene on her behalf, and he makes the mistake of not taking her seriously.

Following on the census story there is a five-minute interlude featuring black Americans, highlighting military service in the Navy, WACs, and Paratroopers. There are clips featuring Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis Jr. It then moves on to sports figures such as Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens, Joe Lewis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Levi Jackson. Entertainers featured in this segment include Marian Anderson (performing in front of the Lincoln Memorial), Lena Horne, Ethel Watters, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Eddie Anderson and the Berry Brothers. Then civil servants are featured, including Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Ralph Bunche.

There is the story of a Hungarian immigrant named Stefan Szabo who is in the business of selling paprika. He has several daughters and does not want them to marry men of other nationalities. Rosa falls in love with Icarus, who is Greek, and must overcome her father's objections. There is the tale of Maxie Klein, a young Jewish man, who was injured during the Korean War, and is on his way to his home in Chicago. He stops on his way home to look up the mother of a young man, an Army buddy, who died in the conflict. The mother is not sure what to make of Maxie because her son mentioned no Jewish friend, but ends up touched by his visit. So many tall tales about Texas exist that a tall Texas man takes it upon himself to separate the fact from the fiction.

Adam Burch, a minister in Washington, D.C., whose parishioners include the President of the United States, sometimes tailors his sermons specifically for the President, only to learn later that the President was unable to attend services that day. Scolded to speak for all rather than to one, Rev. Burch gives the sermon of his life, and then learns to his surprise that the President was present on that day and heard every word. Miss Coleman, a school teacher in San Francisco, discovers that her pupil Joey needs glasses. Joey's father, Mr. Esposito, believes they are not necessary and will only bring Joey ridicule from his peers. In the end, it is the father who learns an important lesson.



According to MGM records the film earned $526,000 in the US and Canada and $129,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss to the studio of $677,000.[1]


  1. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles, CA: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008, p. 60
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