Giant (1956)

Directed by George Stevens

A Film As Big and As Great As Texas.

24 March 2004 | by tfrizzell (United States) – See all my reviews

“Giant” is a sometimes forgotten masterpiece which is remembered for its massive budget (becoming the most expensive movie ever made at that time) and of course James Dean’s death during the final stages of production. All the sub-stories during the making of this film overshadow the fact that this is easily one of the top ten movies ever made. Definitely in the class with epics like “Gone With the Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Giant” is a 200-minute symphony of a movie about the life of a Texas cattle rancher (Oscar-nominee Rock Hudson) and his wife from the East Coast (Elizabeth Taylor). Immediately following their marriage, Hudson’s older sister (Mercedes McCambridge, Oscar-nominated) dies after falling off the same horse that Hudson had bought from Taylor’s father. Disgusted with the fact that Hudson had married Taylor, McCambridge had decided to leave a small part of her land to quiet cow-hand James Dean (in his finest performance, garnering him his second consecutive posthumous Oscar nomination). Hudson is advised to buy the land from Dean, but Dean refuses to sellgiant

Now Dean is trying to strike oil and is ultimately successful. He becomes a huge oil baron and one of the richest and most powerful men in Texas. Hudson continues to make money as well, but eventually has to swallow his pride and become a wild-catter himself. The hate and friction between Hudson and Dean is sure to lead to fireworks for all associated with the two volatile men. Secretly, Dean has always loved Taylor and even goes so far as to try and get with Taylor’s youngest daughter (a brilliant turn by Carroll Baker). Dean is trying to substitute Baker for the lover he has always had for Taylor. By this time Dean is well in his 50s (due to heavy makeup), but he is trying to capture the failed dreams of his youth. Ultimately, Dean has everything except the one thing he really wanted. He lacks love in his life and he suffers miserably through as the film progresses. The older twin children of Hudson and Taylor’s both grow up to go in very different directions. The daughter (Fran Bennett) marries and wants to run the ranch, to Hudson’s approval and Taylor’s dismay. However, the son (a very young Dennis Hopper) marries a Hispanic woman (very taboo back in those days) and wants to go north to become a doctor. Of course Hudson is outraged at this development and nearly disowns Hopper all together. Hudson then decides that Bennett’s new husband (Earl Holliman) may be the best for the job. Holliman though is immediately drafted into World War II, along with Hispanic laborer Sal Mineo. Hudson worries about change after he passes away, but he eventually learns that most of the things he obsesses about are not as important as other matters. Equality for females and Hispanic Americans are major messages throughout here. Much like novelist Edna Ferber’s equally excellent “Cimarron” (which dealt with sexism and racism toward Native- and African-Americans in Oklahoma),

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“Giant” paints a wonderfully complex picture of humanistic relationships from varying cinematic angles. Overall, “Giant” is a huge motion picture that is so smart, multi-layered and deep-thinking that it requires over three hours to tell the entire story. Everything here is so magnificent. The Oscar-winning direction by George Stevens, the screenplay, the art direction, the editing, the costume design, the makeup, the sound and the original musical score are all superb. Almost every actor does the best work of their respective careers as well. James Dean and Rock Hudson are the best. Mercedes McCambridge (albeit in a very small role) is super. Dennis Hopper and Carroll Baker (Baker even received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 1956 for “Baby Doll”) both show amazing range at their very young ages. Chill Wills (who plays Hudson’s old wise uncle) and Elizabeth Taylor give stellar performances as always. Overlooked in 1956 (the unmemorable “Around the World in 80 Days” won the Best Picture Oscar), “Giant” is easily the best film from that weak year and is ranked as the best movie of that decade in my book. One of the most excellent productions of all time. 5 stars out of 5.

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One of the most underrated classics in film history

10/10
Author: Wendell D. Bivens from California, USA
5 September 1998

I first saw this film when I was 12 years old. It instantly became my favorite film of all time. I’ve seen it at least 6 times in the last thirty years, and enjoy it more each time. I was pleased to see that it at least made the top 100 films of all time list, I believe it was the National Board of Review; If not, it was as prestigious an organization.

Great characterizations abound! Never has a films with such youthful leads, generated so much emotional impact. Even though George Stevens deservedly won for Best Director, the film should have garnered more Oscars, it was nominated in 11 or 12 categories. It definitely superior in every way to Mike Todd’s “Around the World in 80 Days”, even though that was a delightful movie, but clearly without the substance of “Giant”.

I always dreamed that subsequent generations would discover this movie and lift it to the blockbuster status that it deserves. I encourage anyone to see this movie, it has held up flawlessly over the years. A honest to goodness fabulous movie!

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