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Giant (1956)


On a horse-buying trip to Maryland, Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict II falls for the beautiful, spirited Leslie Lynnton. Over the course of three decades, their marriage experiences ups and downs as Leslie rebels against Texas tradition by exercising her independence, building a friendship with the despised ranch hand Jett Rink and tending to the needs of the area's Mexican-American workers. Less broadminded than Leslie, Bick struggles to adjust to changing times as Jett strikes it rich with an oil well, eventually convincing him to drill for oil on Reata, the Benedict family ranch. Bick also has to adjust to his children's search for lives of their own, particularly when his eldest son, Jordan III, chooses medicine over ranching and marries a Mexican-American woman, putting him on a collision course with the prejudices he once upheld.

Director: George Stevens
Producer: George Stevens, Henry Ginsberg
Screenplay: Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat
Based on the novel by Edna Ferber
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Editing: William Hornbeck
Art Direction: Boris Leven
Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Benedict), Rock Hudson (Jordan 'Bick' Benedict, Jr.), James Dean (Jett Rink), Carroll Baker (Luz Benedict II), Jane Withers (Vashti Snythe), Chill Wills (Uncle Bawley), Mercedes McCambridge (Luz Benedict), Dennis Hopper (Jordan Benedict III), Sal Mineo (Angel Obregon II), Rod Taylor (Sir David Karfrey), Judith Evelyn (Mrs. Nancy Lynnton), Earl Holliman ('Bob' Dace), Paul Fix (Dr. Horace Lynnton), Alexander Scourby (Old Polo), Elsa Cardenas (Juana Guerra Benedict), Monte Hale (Bale Clinch), Sheb Wooley (Gabe Target), Barbara Barrie (Mary Lou Decker), Max Terhune (Dr. Walker).
C-201m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

Why GIANT is Essential

Giant combined two major trends of '50s Hollywood filmmaking -- the big-screen epic and the social problem film. Adapted from Edna Ferber's generation-spanning, 400-plus page novel, the film captured the breadth of Texas history from the '20s into the '50s as oil supplants cattle as the state's major export. Threaded through the story is a serious consideration of racism, with Maryland-transplant Leslie Benedict (Elizabeth Taylor) shocking her husband's friends and family by trying to help Mexican-Americans and, eventually, her son (Dennis Hopper) marrying a Mexican-American woman and facing prejudice as he introduces her to Texas society.

The film was James Dean's last and contains what many have called his best performance. After rising to stardom playing sensitive young men in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause (both 1955), he got to play a character who ages from misunderstood young rebel to middle-aged, corrupt business tycoon, a role pointing to what he might have accomplished had he lived.

Giant was one of the first films to reveal Taylor's potential as a dramatic actress and one of the few to give Rock Hudson a real chance to act. For Taylor, it marked the start of a period during which she would be increasingly in demand for strong dramatic roles, eventually winning five Oscar® nominations and two Oscars®. The film brought Hudson his only Oscar® nomination, though he would rarely be given another role that challenging.

Critics have labeled George Stevens' three big '50s films -- A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953) and Giant -- his "American Trilogy." Each looks at some aspect of the American dream through the eyes of outsiders -- Montgomery Clift's ambitious factory worker in the first, the pioneering farmers in the second and both Taylor's Maryland transplant and Dean's ambitious ranch hand in the third. Stylistically they are marked by Stevens' use of extreme close-ups, symbolic sound and mise-en-scene, and slow dissolves that create a leisurely pace. Oddly, both A Place in the Sun and Giant present Taylor as a vision of the American Dream. The first and third won Stevens Oscars® for Best Director.

Standard practice for decades-spanning films in Hollywood had always been to cast older actors and make them look younger in the film's earlier scenes, usually by casting older actors along with them in those earlier scenes. Giant was one of the first Hollywood epics to cast younger actors and age them through the course of the film.

by Frank Miller

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Giant (1956)

The version of "The Yellow Rose of Texas" blaring on the jukebox during Bick's fight with the racist diner owner toward the end of Giant would become a hit recording.

A public service announcement James Dean made with Gig Young during filming has been given wide play in recent years. In it, the two discuss the importance of highway safety. Dean's last line was "Drive safely, because the life you save may be mine." He wears the same clothing in the spot he would be wearing the day of his fatal car crash.

Warner Bros. reissued Giant twice. In 1970, they publicized it as more timely than ever: "Even before its time it opened a window on the rebellion of youth, racial intolerance, and a lustful materialism. We think this is a film that is definitely for today." In 1996, they gave a restored print limited release.

Orson Welles' unfinished The Other Side of the Wind was inspired in part by the stories of George Stevens's problems directing Dean. The plot focuses on a Hollywood director (John Huston) trying to complete an epic film despite constant clashes with a young actor who taunts him by calling him "Fatso," just as Dean did on the set of Giant. The film features two cast members from the original film, Dennis Hopper and Mercedes McCambridge.

Ed Graczyk's 1976 play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is about a group of friends in Texas whose high-school Jimmy Dean fan club made a pilgrimage to the Marfa location of Giant during filming and even worked as extras. The leading lady believes her runaway son is the product of a one-night stand with Dean. Robert Altman directed the Broadway production, then filmed it in 1982 with the same cast, including Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black and Kathy Bates.

Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor remained close friends the rest of their lives, although they only worked together on one other film, The Mirror Crack'd (1980). His death of HIV complications in 1985 led to her involvement in AIDS charities which eventually brought her the Motion Picture Academy®'s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The DVD chapter title for the scene in which Hudson unsuccessfully tries to get his son to ride a horse is "Uneasy Rider." In adulthood, the son is played by Hopper, who co-wrote, directed and starred in Easy Rider (1969).

The 1985 Kevin Reynolds film Fandango shows five college friends (including Kevin Costner, Judd Nelson and Sam Robards) on a 1971 pilgrimage to the film's location.

Warner's released a DVD version of the film in Canada but not the U.S. When the studio pulled the Canadian version, U.S. fans scrambled to buy copies before they disappeared. A U.S. DVD version finally came out in 2003.

In 2009, the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, premiered a musical adaptation of Ferber's novel with music and lyrics by John LaChiusa and book by Sybille Pearson. The project had been initiated by Ferber's niece Julie Gilbert, who approached LaChiusa about it in 2004. A reading of the show was staged in New York in 2011 with Kate Baldwin, Steven Pasquale and Tom Wopat in the cast. The Dallas Theatre then picked up the production for 2012, with Baldwin returning as Leslie and Dee Hoty as Luz. The show, which received mostly positive reviews, has yet to appear on Broadway.

In Salt (2010), Angelina Jolie's title character is supposedly the vice president of Rink Petroleum, the corporation founded by Jett Rink.

by Frank Miller

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Giant (1956)

Other actresses briefly considered for the role of Leslie Benedict in Giant were Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich.

Real-life Texans in the cast include Chill Wills, Pilar Del Rey and Fran Bennett. George Stevens also gave small roles to former cowboy stars Monte Hale, Max Terhune and Sheb Wooley.

During location shooting in Texas, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in rented houses across the street from each other, which allowed them the opportunity to socialize more and become close friends.

By the film's end, 23-year-old Taylor and 29-year-old Hudson were playing the parents of Carroll Baker, 24; Dennis Hopper, 19, and Fran Bennett, 20. Baker played the youngest of the three.

For his scenes as the older Bick, Hudson wore a 50-pound belt under his costume.

One night during location shooting, Mercedes McCambridge and James Dean were so mad at Stevens they sat up consuming a jar of peanut butter, a box of crackers, six Milky Ways and 12 Cokes.

Off-screen, Dean called McCambridge "Madama," his character's nickname for her in Giant.

Before McCambridge did her first location scenes, Dean tried to steal her hat for himself.

During location shooting for Giant, Warner Bros. gave the principal cast members battered old Chevies to drive around. Dean was so frustrated with the film, he drove his out of town and shot out the windows with a BB gun. That was the last straw for Warner's. After previous complaints about the actor's speeding, the studio took his car away from him. When he got Mercedes to drive through the country slowly as he sat on the hood of her car shooting rabbits, Warner's took her car away, too.

Although Taylor has always said she was not involved with either of her co-stars, during location shooting, her husband, Michael Wilding, invited two strippers to their home for an evening while the children were visiting Taylor's parents. The strippers later sold their story to Confidential magazine, which ran it after the film had been completed. Although Taylor said at the time that she would not let the scandal destroy her marriage, the two would divorce in 1957.

The painting hanging in the Reata mansion is now displayed, with a plaque explaining its part in the film, in San Antonio's Menger Hotel.

Giant came in for an estimated cost of $5.4 million. It brought in $14 in grosses domestically, with an estimated international gross of $25 million. It would remain Warner Bros.' highest grossing release until Superman (1978).

To promote the film, Taylor, Hudson and Stevens put their hand- and footprints in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater at the premiere.

Memorable Quotes from GIANT

"You all think that the glory happened here in the East, don't you, with Valley Forge and Bunker Hill? Do you know about San Jacinto? Have you heard about the Alamo?" -- Rock Hudson, as Bick Benedict

"Just remember, one of these days, that bourbon's gonna kill you."
"Okay, it'll be me or it. One of us has to go." -- Hudson, as Bick Benedict, and Chill Wills, as Uncle Bawley

"Well, there's one thing you got to say for cattle...boy, you put your brand on one of them, you're gonna know where it's at!" -- Mercedes McCambridge, as Luz Benedict

"You're my wife, Mrs. Jordan Benedict, and I'm asking you right now -- when are you going to settle down and behave like everybody else? It's none of your business, fixing the world. Why don't you join a club!" -- Hudson, as Bick, objecting because his wife -- Elizabeth Taylor, as Leslie Benedict, has visited poor Mexican-Americans

"You sure do look pretty, Miss Leslie. Pert nigh good enough to eat!" -- James Dean, as Jett Rink, to Taylor, as Leslie Benedict

"Money isn't everything, Jett."
"Not when you've got it." -- Taylor, as Leslie, and Dean, as Jett Rink

"Everybody thought I had a duster. Y'all thought ol' Spindletop Burke and Burnett was all the oil there was, didn't ya? Well, I'm here to tell you that it ain't, boy! It's here, and there ain't a dang thing you gonna do about it! My well came in big, so big, Bick and there's more down there and there's bigger wells. I'm rich, Bick. I'm a rich 'un. I'm a rich boy. Me, I'm gonna have more money than you ever thought you could have -- you and all the rest of you stinkin' sons of...Benedicts!" -- Dean, after his well comes in

"Bick, you shoulda shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill" -- Wills, as Uncle Bawley, speaking to Hudson, about Dean

"You want to know something, Leslie? If I live to be 90, I will never figure you out." -- Hudson to Taylor

Compiled by Frank Miller

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Giant (1956)

Edna Ferber was supposedly inspired to write her 1952 bestseller Giant when she stayed at the Shamrock Hotel in Houston and met its owner, Irish immigrant turned Texas oil man Glenn McCarthy, the alleged inspiration for the character of Jett Rink.

Several Hollywood studios made offers for the film rights, but Ferber went with producer-director George Stevens because he promised to remain faithful to the novel. Although he did not really stick to that promise, he gave Ferber a role on the production team and enlisted her for an uncredited re-write on the script for Giant.

Stevens, former Paramount Pictures head Henry Ginsberg and Ferber formed Giant Productions in 1953 to produce the film and quickly found a home at Warner Bros. None of them took an upfront salary for the film, working instead for a percentage of the profits.

Stevens's first choice to play Leslie Benedict was Grace Kelly, but she was so heavily booked he turned to Elizabeth Taylor, whom he had previously directed in A Place in the Sun (1951). Knowing Kelly was getting all the hot roles at MGM, Taylor had campaigned vigorously for the chance to play Leslie. MGM agreed to loan her to Warner's in exchange for $175,000 and James Dean, whom they wanted to play Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

Clark Gable, Gary Cooper and William Holden all expressed interest in playing Bick Benedict, but Stevens cast Rock Hudson after seeing him as a gunfighter who ages over 30 years in The Lawless Breed (1953). In return for approving the loan to Warner Bros., Hudson's home studio, Universal, forced him to extend his contract another four years. In addition, Hudson's agent, Henry Wilson, took advantage of his client's signing by securing roles for two other actors he represented, Jane Withers and Fran Bennett.

Stevens wanted to cast Alan Ladd, the star of Shane (1953) as Jett Rink, but Ladd's wife, agent Sue Carol, advised against his accepting the second male lead. Stevens also considered Robert Mitchum and Montgomery Clift for the role.

Dean was eager to appear in Giant for the chance to work with Stevens and to share billing with top Hollywood stars Taylor and Hudson. He made friends with Stevens's assistant Fred Guiol, which gave him an excuse to visit Stevens's offices during breaks in work on East of Eden (1955). It was seeing his first starring performance, however, that convinced Stevens to cast the sensitive actor, even though the character in the book was described as a tougher type.

When Taylor became pregnant with her second child by husband Michael Wilding, production had to be pushed back three months. That gave Warner Bros. time to cast Dean in his most iconic film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

According to Hudson, Stevens did most of his direction of the actors before filming started, in meetings to help them understand their characters and by involving them in production decisions. One day he took Hudson to the production shop where the massive Victorian house at Reata was being built. Most of the house was just lumber at that point, but Stevens asked him what color the house should be. Hudson thought about the Victorian era, then said "Tan with brown trim, I guess." Stevens immediately told the production crew to paint it that color.

As part of his direction of Hudson, Stevens took him to screenings of films starring Gary Cooper and Spencer Tracy and pointed out the performance elements he wanted to see in Bick.

Wanting to emphasize the height of the Benedict mansion, the oil wells and Rink's hotel, Stevens chose not to work in the new Cinemascope format. Giant is one of the few '50s epics not filmed in that process.

Gary Cooper happened to be at Warner Bros. the day Mercedes McCambridge was doing hair and makeup tests. When he got a look at the brand new Stetson she was supposed to wear in the film, he said, "You mean to sit there and tell me that a Texan woman who spends most of her waking hours in the middle of hundreds of head of cattle would be caught dead in that stupid store hat?" He called a wardrobe man he had worked with, and gave McCambridge an old hat he had worn in other films. It even had his name in the band. When McCambridge noticed the water stains, she asked if it had been rained on. "Nope," he replied. "Peed on a lot! That's what makes it such a fine Texas hat. No self-respecting rancher wears a hat that his horse hasn't peed on!"

Three days before shooting was scheduled to start on Giant, Dean was entered in an auto race in Palm Springs. When Stevens found out, he put his foot down and insisted the actor not be allowed to race until after production was finished.

by Frank Miller

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Giant (1956)

Filming on Giant started in Los Angeles in May 1955. The first scenes Hudson shot were his reactions as an outsider at the Maryland home where he meets Leslie. To get the right "fish-out-of-water" sense, George Stevens shot Hudson's reactions independent of the other actors, with the camera far away from him and Stevens feeding him the other characters' lines.

James Dean's rebellious behavior started with the press luncheon announcing the start of production. Not only did he arrive late, but also when a photographer asked him to remove his glasses, he responded by putting a set of clip-on sunglasses over them. He also refused to take a bow when Stevens introduced him. Later he tried to rationalize his behavior by claiming he had come directly from the set of Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and was concerned about being seen unshaven and tired. In fact, he had finished work on the film the night before and was exhausted. With the earlier filming running over schedule, he was shooting wardrobe and make-up tests for Giant while finishing Rebel Without a Cause and did not get a promised vacation between the two pictures.

Before they shot their first scene, Elizabeth Taylor invited Hudson to dinner at her home with husband Michael Wilding. The two stars stayed up drinking and talking until four in the morning and then had to be on the set at six. Their first scene together, the Maryland wedding at which he reclaims her after she leaves him to return home, had no lines, which was fortunate as they were both too hung over to remember anything. In between takes, the two were running outside to throw up. The concentrated effort they made to keep from vomiting on camera came across as deep love for each other on screen.

Although they had enjoyed a congenial relationship making A Place in the Sun (1951), Taylor and director Stevens quarreled a good deal during filming. Most of their fights stemmed from his practice of demanding multiple takes without explaining why or offering additional direction to the actors.

When the production moved to Marfa, Texas, on June 6 for location filming, the Victorian mansion set was shipped from California on six train cars. The set was built on the Evans Ranch, 21 miles outside Marfa, and lashed to four telephone poles to hold it upright. It was really just a faade -- three walls with no back, no roof and no interior. Interiors at the mansion and other Texas locations were filmed at Warner Bros. in Burbank.

Shooting in Texas during the summer was far from comfortable, with temperatures rising as high as 120 degrees in the shade. Hudson and Taylor bolstered each other's spirits as much as possible, often staying up late drinking together.

Taylor also forged a close bond with Dean. Some nights they would sit up late as he vented his frustrations with his life as an actor, the restrictions of Hollywood life and past traumas. Unlike Hudson, however, he rarely acknowledged their closeness on set, often ignoring her completely after a night of baring his soul to her.

With Taylor spending time with her two co-stars, rumors flew that she was involved with one or both. Amazingly, one person who claimed to believe it was Phyllis Gates, Rock Hudson's future wife, who never acknowledged her ex-husband's homosexuality. Far from squelching the rumors, a visit from her husband and children just fanned the flames, with gossips claiming Wilding had come to win her back. In truth, she had asked him to visit for moral support because the role and location filming were so difficult.

Stevens maintained an open set during the location shooting on Giant. He also made extensive use of locals as extras, crew members and dialect coaches.

Stevens had a hard time directing Dean. The problem started with Stevens's ordering Dean to get rid of mannerisms like moving his head from side to side or hopping while walking. The two argued constantly, and at one point the actor went on strike for three days. Dean even ordered his agent to come to the location to help him deal with the director. He also referred to Stevens as "Fatso" behind his back.

Dean also objected to being kept waiting for his scenes. After being called to the set three days in a row without being used at all, he skipped his next call. When Stevens objected, he argued that with the amount of preparation he did to create his character's emotional life, it was grueling to be kept waiting that long. Although not really sympathetic to the Method Acting Dean had learned at the Actor's Studio, Stevens tried to keep him on a more reasonable schedule after that.

Hudson and Dean did not get along either. Although later rumors would suggest that Dean had rejected a pass from the actor, most sources reported that each had little respect for the other's approach to acting, and Hudson resented Dean's unprofessional behavior.

During breaks in the shooting of Giant, Dean got the local cowboys to teach him how to handle a lariat and his hat until he could act as if he had been working with them his entire life.

Except for Taylor and Hudson, who stayed in rented houses, everybody else in the cast and crew stayed at Marfa's one hotel. Although conditions on the set were grueling, the days actors weren't working were worse, as the small town (population 3,600) offered almost nothing to do.

Stevens had the Palace, an old movie theatre that had been boarded up two years earlier, reopened so he could screen the daily rushes there.

The heat was so great that during one day of shooting, Mercedes McCambridge's make-up melted into her skin, creating a serious infection that left her neck scarred.

Dean refused to undergo a lengthy make-up process for his later scenes in Giant, claiming "a man of forty-five shows his age in thoughts and actions, not in wrinkles." He only allowed them to gray his temples and put a few lines on his forehead.

Production returned to Hollywood June 9, but Dean stayed in Texas for another three days for second-unit shots on the property Jett inherits from Luz. The mansion set remained in Texas as well, where parts of it still stand.

Dean refused to show up for one Saturday call because he had planned to move that day. A week later, he arrived late on a day when McCambridge had shown up on time, even though the night before she was sent to the hospital for stitches after a bad fall. Stevens dressed him down in front of the entire cast and crew, then walked off the set and left an assistant to direct the actor's scenes.

Although appalled by his lack of professionalism, Stevens was always highly complimentary about Dean's acting abilities. He even conceded that some of his lateness was a result of his intense work getting into character before shooting.

On September 27, the day he completed his last scene, Dean had a new Porsche Spyder delivered to the set at the end of his work day. McCambridge was the first person to ride in it with him. When he sped across the Warner's lot to drive her to her dressing room, studio police barred him from speeding there.

Dean was killed in an auto accident on September 30 while the film was still in post-production. When Stevens realized his drunken final monologue was too hard to understand, he called in the actor's good friend, Nick Adams, to imitate Dean's voice on the soundtrack during looping.

Taylor was devastated by Dean's death. Stevens forced her to work the next day, even though she protested she was too grief-stricken and spent most of her time between takes sobbing hysterically. That was supposed to have been her last scene, but Stevens decided it required another day. Before that could happen, Taylor was hospitalized on October 4 with abdominal pains eventually attributed to a twisted colon. She finally returned to work October 11 and finished her scenes the following day.

Stevens spent almost a year on post-production work for Giant, marked by constant battles with Warner Bros. over the film's length. He refused to budge on cutting the film, leaving it at 201 minutes, 37 minutes shorter than Gone With the Wind (1939).

by Frank Miller

John Howlett James Dean: A Biography

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teaser Giant (1956)

The film version of Giant (1956), Edna Ferber's epic, Texas-based tale about the Benedict family and their numerous internal conflicts over a twenty five year period, is famous for many things; It was Rock Hudson's first important dramatic role (He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination), it marked a significant turning point in the film careers of two young actors, Dennis Hopper and Caroll Baker, and the movie earned ten Academy Award nominations and won the Academy Award for director George Stevens. However, Giant is best remembered as James Dean's final film. Like Hudson, it earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor but he never learned of the honor. Two weeks after his last scene for Giant was filmed, Dean was killed in an automobile accident while speeding in his Porsche 550 Spyder toward a road race in Salinas, California.

It was said that Edna Ferber's book was inspired by Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy who was a millionaire by age 26. Ferber had received numerous Hollywood offers to film her tenth novel but rejected them all in favor of George Stevens' proposal: he promised to remain completely faithful to her book. For locations, Stevens chose Marfa, Texas (The Benedict mansion was built at the Warner Bros. lot and shipped on five railroad flat cars to the set) and Virginia (the scenes on the Lynnton estate). The only other exterior scenes were filmed at the Statler Hotel in Los Angeles and the Lockheed Airport in Burbank.

Casting for the film generated much excitement within the film industry and for a while, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and William Holden were all mentioned as possibilities for the role of the rugged Texas rancher, Bick Benedict. Stevens decided it made some sense to cast a younger man in the role because it was easier to make a younger man look older instead of the reverse so he hired Rock Hudson (then 29). For the scenes where Hudson had to play Bick as an older man, he had to wear a 50 pound belt to give him a heavy, middle-aged appearance.

Grace Kelly was George Stevens' first choice for the female lead, Leslie Benedict, but Elizabeth Taylor was in second place. The director felt that Taylor was too young (she was 23 at the time) to handle the emotional range required for the role but finally asked Rock Hudson to make the choice and he picked Taylor. The two stars would enjoy a great working relationship on the set and their closeness prompted gossip columnists to spread a rumor that they were having an affair. The reports eventually reached Taylor's husband, actor Michael Wilding, who flew from London to the set to check in on his wife. But the relationship between Hudson and Taylor was completely innocent; they liked to party together and one of their favorite concoctions - a chocolate martini - almost made a cameo appearance in the film. The famous wedding scene where Taylor is attending her sister's ceremony and is surprised by Hudson's unexpected arrival was filmed after an all night drinking session between Taylor and Hudson. "In between takes," Hudson was fond of saying, "Elizabeth and I were running out and throwing up. We were both so hung over we couldn't speak. That's what made the scene."

For the role of Jett Rink, the poor dirt farmer who strikes it rich, Alan Ladd was the frontrunner but turned it down. Montgomery Clift was also considered, but Stevens felt his personal problems might interfere with the shooting schedule. Finally Stevens agreed to hire James Dean who was so desperate for the role he offered to work for a minimal salary. But almost from the beginning there was friction between the actor and the director. Stevens tried to break Dean of some of his Actors Studio mannerisms and demanded that the actor report to the set on time. In defiance, Dean would often hold up production for hours, causing the film to go over schedule. At one point, he was said to have ruined an outdoor scene by yelling "Cut!" and then unzipping his pants and urinating in full view of the crew and visitors on the set.

Hudson, who roomed briefly with Dean and co-star Chill Wills during filming, shared Stevens' dislike for his co-star. He felt that Dean's method of acting was completely self-absorbed to the point where he alienated his co-stars, offering no give and take in his performance. Of course, Dean had his defenders as well. In James Dean, author Val Holley wrote that when Edna Ferber visited the set, "Dean liked and charmed Ferber, trying to teach her some of the rope tricks he had mastered. She called him a "genius" and shrugged off his troubles with Stevens as "success poisoning," a syndrome she said she knew very well from the days when she had simultaneous hit shows on Broadway." Elizabeth Taylor also grew to love him and later said, "We would sometimes sit up until three in the morning, and he would tell me about his past, his mother, minister, his loves, and the next day he would just look straight through me as if he'd given away or revealed too much of himself. It would take....maybe a couple of days before we'd be back on friendship terms. He was very afraid to give of himself." The day after hearing about Dean's accident, the actress collapsed on the set and had to spend the next two weeks recovering in a hospital. (She was suffering from various health problems, including a leg infection and was also distraught over martial problems with Michael Wilding)

In the end, Giant proved to be a huge success. It was the number three box-office attraction of 1956, ended up on countless "Top Ten" best lists by film critics, and of course, scored Stevens his second Best Director Oscar (He won his first for A Place in the Sun, 1951).

Producer: George Stevens, Henry Ginsberg
Director: George Stevens
Screenplay: Fred Guiol
Production Design: Boris Leven
Cinematography: William Mellor
Costume Design: Marjorie Best
Film Editing: William W. Hornbeck
Original Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Lynnton), Rock Hudson (Bick Benedict), James Dean (Jett Rink), Carrol Baker (Luz Benedict II), Mercedes McCambridge (Luz Benedict), Jane Withers (Vashti Synthe).
C-201m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Jeff Stafford

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Giant (1956)

Awards and Honors

George Stevens won the Directors Guild Award. Giant was also nominated by the Writers Guild.

The film won Italy's David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Production.

Giant was nominated for ten Oscars®: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Dean and Hudson), Best Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costumes, Best Editing and Best Score. It won for Best Director, bringing Stevens his second Oscar®.

Giant was voted a place on the National Film Registry in 2005.


" excellent film which registers strongly on all levels, whether it's in its breathtaking panoramic shots of the dusty Texas plains; the personal, dramatic impact of the story itself, or the resounding message it has to impart."
- Variety

" is the late James Dean who makes the malignant role of the surly ranch hand who becomes an oil baron the most tangy and corrosive in the film. Mr. Dean plays this curious villain with a stylized spookiness -- a sly sort of off-beat languor and slur of language -- that concentrates spit. This is a haunting capstone to the brief career of Mr. Dean."
- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

"A real movie is big, grand, magnificent and regales you with all the power that movies can wield upon a viewer's imagination and spirit. George Stevens' 1956 production, Giant, is a real movie."
- Douglas Pratt, The Hollywood Reporter

"....handsomely designed, big, glossy version of the profoundly second-rate Edna Ferber novel...and James Dean (in a supporting role) ran away with it...His appearance here is particularly startling, because he plays his misfit role in the twitchy, self-conscious, "modern" manner of the 1950s, while the rest of the movie is in the conventional heavy-going style that had always been deemed appropriate for sprawling family sagas...It's an example of commercial filmmaking straining for prestige, and the performers can't blink an eye without announcing that they're acting - and acting, what's more, to live up to the scale of the production. Yet Stevens' craftsmanship is effective at an unsubtle level, and the movie is often entertaining, with the narrative push that Ferber was so skilled at."
- Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"Near-legendary epic...holds up beautifully although still very much of its time. Hudson's best performance, close to Taylor's best, and Dean's last film."
- Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide

"Dean steals the film from Hudson and Taylor...But I can't get a handle on the character. More interesting is Hudson's character, who's basically a nice guy but tries - without complete success - to cover up his gentle, soft qualities so he won't seem weaker than his father...The wide-screen production is patriotic, yet still acknowledges that bigotry is widespread. Film has slow and hackneyed scenes, but it's quite enjoyable."
- Danny Peary, Guide for the Film Fanatic

"Manny Farber's white elephant category might have been created for George Stevens' 1956 Lone Star epic. It's the kind of movie Hollywood used to pride itself on making: self-consciously "epic," grandiose, a history lesson rolled into a sweeping love story. And yes, it's full of moments of cringe-worthy obviousness, as when the firstborn son of cattle rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson) bursts into tears when his father puts him on a horse, then plays happily with a toy stethoscope. (To no surprise at all, he grows up to be a doctor, though the fact that he also grows to be Dennis Hopper is a bit of a shock.) Though its condemnation of anti-Mexican racism is laudable, the movie's Mexican characters (most played by white actors covered with a thick coat of shoe polish) are almost embarrassingly noble; by contrast, Sidney Poitier was Sweet Sweetback. But for all his grandiosity, Stevens excelled at small, patient details, and they're what make Giant worth watching, in addition to William Mellor's stunning vistas of a windswept Texas....If ever there was a movie to make you doubt the Method, this is it. James Dean mumbles so badly he ought to come with subtitles; across the screen from Rock Hudson's solid elegance, he looks like he comes from another planet, one you don't really want to visit."
- Sam Adams, Philadelphia City Paper

"Stevens' sprawling epic of Texan life, taken from Edna Ferber's novel, strives so hard for Serious Statements that it ends up as a long yawn."
- Geoff Andrew, Time Out

"Still the best movie ever made about Texas and the modern West." -- Stephen Farber, Movieline

"Giant defines the word 'interminable,' and watching it just once is guaranteed to lop at least a year off your life."
- Dan Callahan, Slant Magazine

"Giant" offers extensive pleasures - it had better, at 201 minutes - not the least of which is watching James Dean age from a misunderstood, penniless youth into a mean, rich, middle-aged alcoholic. Add Rock Hudson as a landowner and Elizabeth Taylor as the woman both men love, set it all in Texas, and you have some kind of amazing spectacle.Director George Stevens has been knocked for stodginess; Andrew Sarris wrote that his technique "once looked almost like an official style for national epics." But there was clearly another side to Stevens, one that allowed him to depict an ecstatic Dean sopping with oil from a gusher he discovers on his land....Viewers can also enjoy the movie as an attack (although long-winded) on materialism, or simply relish fine supporting work by the likes of Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper, Mercedes McCambridge and Earl Holliman."
- Walter Addiego, The San Francisco Examiner/I>

Compiled by Frank Miller

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