I’ve watched and re-watched The Big Country since it hit Bluray in 2011, and especially since the much improved KL Studio Classic version was released in ‘18. I know this film cold, every scene and line and Technirama shot, every bridge and stanza in Jerome Moross’s score, etc.

But until last night, I hadn’t noticed a very glaring element in the final shot, the one in which Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons and Alfonso Bedoya ride down a rugged mountain trail and into a large valley below.

Throughout the entire film the dominant outdoor color (aside from the sky) is pale straw…the landscape is seemingly under-watered and parched as far as the camera can see, the dry prairie grass covering the plains and hills in every direction.

And then in the final shot and for the first time in the film, the entire valley is covered in green.

Was this a visual metaphor that director William Wyler decided upon, signifying health and ample water and a happy ending as far as human nature allowed? Or had nature simply shifted gears or seasons by sprouting fresh grass toward the end of principal photography?

I know that I can’t recall another outdoor film, western or not, in which an entire eye-filling landscape changes its mind so completely at the very last moment.