Classic Film Review- Big Jake

Big jake movie poster

Legendary film director George Sherman ended his career in 1971 with this John Wayne Western action film Big Jake. It is also one of eight films that Wayne and Sherman collaborated on. 

Everyone seems to think that John McCandles is dead. He abandoned his family ten years ago, thus he is estranged from his wife and kids. 

However, after a gang of ruthless outlaws led by John Fain kidnap his grandson, demanding a million dollar ransom. After the Texas Rangers fail to rescue the boy, Jake sets out with his sons and his friend Sam Sharpnose, an Apache associate to find the boy and bring him home by paying the ransom money. However, other outlaws here about the money and try to trap Jake and his sons. 

It is a long dangerous road and John Fain may be one step ahead of them. 

Originally titled The Million Dollar Kidnapping, the screenplay was written by original Dirty Harry screenwriters, Harry Julian Fink and Rita M. Fink. Though this is a great film, truly one of John Wayne’s best, it was not well received at the box office, but still managed to make a big profit. It has many frequent John Wayne collaborators including Richard Boone and Maureen O’Hara. 

It is one of the most well made Western films. It has great acting, scenery, and is well written. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the main character needing to accept that the West was declining. New technology and innovations are changing the world. It was an interesting undercurrent in the film. 


PARENTAL CONCERNS: Minor Language, Violence


  • John Wayne as Jacob McCandles
  • Richard Boone as John Fain 
  • Maureen O’Hara as Martha McCandles
  • Patrick Wayne as James McCandles
  • Christopher Mitchum as Michael McCandles
  • Bruce Cabot as Sam Sharpnose
  • Bobby Vinton as Jeff McCandles
  • Glenn Corbett as gang member O’Brien, aka Breed 
  • John Doucette as Texas Ranger Capt. Buck Duggan
  • John Agar as Bert Ryan
  • Harry Carey, Jr. as gang member Pop Dawson
  • Gregg Palmer as gang member John Goodfellow 
  • Jim Burk as gang member Trooper 
  • Dean Smith as gang member James William “Kid” Duffy
  • Robert Warner as gang member Will Fain 
  • Jeff Wingfield as gang member Billy Devries 
  • Everett Creach as gang member Walt Devries 
  • Ethan Wayne as Little Jake McCandles
  • George Fenneman as Narrator
  • Tom Hennesy as Mr. Sweet

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