2 May 2014

Giant


Giant 1956
  • Director: George Stevens
  • Based on the novel by Edna Ferber
  • Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Rock Hudson, Carole Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in:
    • Elizabeth Taylor  The Mirror Crack´d, Reflections in a Golden Eye, The Taming of a Shrew, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cleopatra, Suddenly Last Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Raintree County, Butterfield 8
    • James Dean – Rebel without a Cause, East of Eden
    • Rock Hudson - The Mirror Crack´d and probably other oldies
    • Carroll Baker – Roswell, The Game, Ironweed, maybe others
    • Jane Withers – some oldies, I’m sure
    • Chill Wills – old westerns and TV series
    • Dennis Hopper – Swing Vote, EDtv, Speed, True Romance, Red Rock West, The Indian Runner, Paris Trout, Rumble Fish, Apocalypse Now, Easy Rider
    • Sal Mineo – Escape from Planet of the Apes, Exodus, Rebel without a Cause, old TV series
  • Why? Elizabeth Taylor, bought shortly after she died two years ago
  • Seen:  April 27, 2014 with Hal and YW in our read-novel-watch-film group
The novel is so powerful and so amazingly good that I have no expectations that the film will live up to it. It doesn’t but it comes surprisingly close. It follows the story quite faithfully: Texan super rancher Bick marries outspoken Leslie from Virginia (Maryland in the film) who has a lot of views on the racism and sexism of pre-WWII Texas. Bick is not well pleased by this but they stick together, have two children (three in the film) who grow up to go against Bick’s rigid demands.  In the 50’s the son becomes a doctor instead of taking over the ranch, treats the Mexicans working on his father’s ranch and marries a Mexican girl.  The daughter gets a university degree in something agricultural and marries another university graduate and they go off to develop modern ranching.  Bick’s rival, white trash Jett Rink, strikes oil to become a multimillionaire.  Reluctantly Bick comes to accept that racism and sexism aren’t necessarily the right way to go.
The problems with the film: Rock Hudson is better than expected but just doesn’t work for me.  The extra dewy-eyed wedding scene to patch up rocky stretch in Bick and Leslie’s marriage is just pathetic.  The book’s feisty daughter becomes two daughters, one of whom is a sweet mild thing who marries young but does get her degree – see above.  The other is a silly femme fatale sort of girl who falls for good looking bad boy Jett then when that falls through runs off to Hollywood.  The fist fight in the café at the end and Leslie’s telling Bick that he became her hero at that moment is annoying.
So yes, the novel is much better.  But the film, in spite of its failings, is very strong.  Elizabeth Taylor is at her best in many scenes and ages admirably.  James Dean in his last role is worth an Oscar (he was nominated posthumously but didn’t get it). His Jett is actually more complex than the novel’s and his final drunken scenes are very well played and painful to watch.  He’s very good in the whole film (reminds me of Brad Pitt!) and also ages convincingly.
Altogether, what’s good is very good and it’s an amazing film to be from the US in the 50’s.

4 * of 5

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