Nancy Olson in Big Jim McLain (1952)

Big Jim McLain (1952)

As investigators for the House Un-American Activities Committee Jim McLain (John Wayne) and his partner Mal Baxter (James Arness) are sent to Hawaii to look into suspected communist activity and draw out the leaders. Whilst their arrival doesn't go unnoticed by those in the know they go about their business which leads them to the offices of Dr. Gelster (Gayne Whitman) who is treating a supposed member of the part. It is there that McLain meets Nancy Vallon (Nancy Olson) and starts taking her out but at the same time McLain and Baxter find their lives in danger from Sturak (Alan Napier) the chief in the local communist party.

On one side of "Big Jim McLain" we have a take on the old wartime spy movie where agents try to uncover who the bad guys are whilst in another country. The take is that we have two agents in Hawaii trying to discover those Un-American communists but it follows a similar path including one line of query leading to another and some typical danger whilst there is the equally typical romantic subplot thrown in there for good measure and to give the movie some much needed variation.

But then there is the other side of "Big Jim McLain" and that is the propaganda side with the patriotic John Wayne as a red blooded American leading the fight against communism by being an agent for the House Un-American Activities Committee. Having not been around when all this was going on it is hard to know how this came across to audiences then but now it has to be said that it comes across as what it is, a propaganda movie and an expectedly jingoistic one at that. In fact with many a scene having a semi documentary feel such as when we are informed about how papers are cross referenced back at the Pentagon, or some headquarters it is not the most enthralling of movies.

Of course there is always John Wayne who gives it his patriotic best but it isn't anything special just typical. In fact "Big Jim McLain" is so typical that Nancy Olson was 21 years Wayne's junior but of course is cast as the woman who falls for him.

What this all boils down to is that "Big Jim McLain" may have worked back in 1952 and appealed to patriotic American audiences but it isn't a movie which still works despite have a tradition thriller aspect