An alumnus of Stanford University, James R. Webb was a busy and prolific magazine writer when he entered films in 1939. After an apprenticeship with the Republic western and serial units, Webb moved into the big leagues at Warner Bros., where he scripted such adventure films as South of St. Louis (1949), The Big Trees (1952) and The Iron Mistress (1953). He then spent a few years with Hecht-Hill-Lancaster, penning the Burt Lancaster vehicles Apache (1954), Vera Cruz (1954) and Trapeze (1956). One of his most fruitful professional associations was with Gregory Peck, for whom Webb wrote The Big Country (1959), Pork Chop Hill (1959) and Cape Fear (1962). Peck was one of the many stars who appeared in How the West Was Won (1962), which earned James Webb a "Best Original Screenplay" award.