Sunday, March 27, 2011

308. GIANT (1956)

Running Time: 197 minutes
Directed By: George Stevens
Written By: Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat, from novel by Edna Ferber
Main Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers


I'm pretty sure that the news of Elizabeth Taylor's death came as a shock to most people this past week. I know it came as a shock to me and while she certainly lived a long and prosperous life, it's always sad when someone truly great passes away. Seeing as how I have a blog that focuses on potentially great films, I figured I could at least do my small part to honor the great Elizabeth Taylor and watch one of her two remaining films in the "1001" book - "Giant".

Elizabeth Taylor is the leading lady of "Giant" and one of three stars. The film starts out with Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Hudson) traveling to Maryland to purchase a stallion. It seems that he is purchasing said horse from a Doctor, who is the father of a very sassy young lady by the name of Leslie (Taylor). Bick is enamored with Leslie and even though they get off on the wrong foot, when Leslie questions the ownership of Texas (it seems Leslie is of the opinion that "we" stole Texas from the Mexicans), they wind up married. Leslie travels with Bick back to Texas, where he is the owner and operator of 595,000 acres of ranch called Reata. From here it's a real culture clash, as the Northerner Leslie doesn't really seem to fit in in the south and she's constantly doing something to embarrass the straight laced, old fashioned Bick. As time goes by Leslie and Bick have children, three to be exact - twins Jordan III (Dennis Hopper) & Judy (Fran Bennett) and Luz Jr. (Baker). Meanwhile, we also follow the rebel Jett Rink (Dean), a man who starts out working for the Benedict's, but hits it big when Bick's sister leaves him a piece of land and he strikes oil.


I guess even more so than watching "Giant" and realizing that Elizabeth Taylor was no longer gracing Earth with her presence, was realizing that all three of our main characters were, in fact, gone. I'm, of course, speaking of Rock Hudson and James Dean. This was actually my first James Dean film and boy, what a treat! Not only was James Dean a "pretty face" but he was actually a hell of an actor and it's sad to think that he was only able to make three films in his short career. As far as Hudson goes, we're not done with him yet, as we still have more of his films to go in the pages of the "1001" book.

As for the film, I liked it! I wouldn't go all out and say that "I loved it", but it was definitely enjoyable and something that I'm sure I'll never forget. I mean, how could you forget "Giant" - you have outstanding performances from Taylor, Hudson and Dean, among others and you have some absolutely eye popping cinematography from William Mellor. It's a film that will stick with you once you've watched it and I know this, despite just finishing it.

As for the story itself, it was really good and the fact that it spanned over many years, justified the over three hour running time. With the film stretched out over such a long period, it gave us a chance to hit a lot of high points without a lot of worthless filler. We went from one big event to the next and actually "Giant" is one of the smoothest flowing films over three hours I've ever seen. The characters were likable and by the end, I had flip flopped on the character of Bick Benedict so many times, I couldn't remember whether I loved him or hated him. I will say, that for most of the film I didn't like Bick, but that made the scene in the diner, near the end, all the more powerful. Here you have this guy who was as old fashioned as they come, standing up for his Latina daughter-in-law and grandson. I was able to peg most of the big events (ie. Jett striking oil, Luz dying, Jordan III not wanting to inherit Reata), but I thought for sure that Leslie was going to end up with Jett. In fact, in the beginning, the only thing I was really sure about is that Leslie and Bick weren't going to last, because they had such different backgrounds, that it just flat out wasn't going to work. In the end, I came to the realization that they were actually perfect for one another and through the years (through the film) you realize that really they were the only two that could handle one another.
RATING: 7/10 I could definitely see that rating rising in the future, but for now, we'll leave it be. Rest in Peace Elizabeth....and that goes for Mr. Dean and Mr. Hudson as well.


March 27, 2011 3:19pm

1 comment:

  1. I have to say I endured this film rather than enjoyed it, but it was better than I expected. The prospect of.. however many hours long it is.. of James Dean's anguished tormented acting was rather daunting.. but I guess he had matured from 'Rebel', and .. Eden' by now. If you enjoyed this, try spledour in the grass, for more Rock Hudson and more 'Daddy, you don't understand, I don't to be an oil man/rancher'


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