The film remains stunningly relevant. It’s one that I purchased back in the day when VHS video tapes were the dominant home video format. I rarely purchased tapes. Only if I had first viewed a film in a walk-in theatre and completely enjoyed it, did I ever buy the tape. Sadly, I loaned the tape to a co-worker who never saw fit to return it, despite repeated requests.
Last week, I perused the DVD shelves at the public library and saw the box for “Giant”. Yes, I wanted to view the epic classic yet again. I’m still bummed out about Elizabeth Taylor’s death. One of her greatest roles in one of Hollywood’s finest films always gives me a super Taylor “fix”.
One major aspect that always draws me back to “Giant” is the iconic nature of the cast. If anyone has any doubts as to why the main players are considered all-time greats, one viewing of this film should graphically explain the why-fors.
I still can’t pick out the best actor of the three. Elizabeth Taylor is at her very best as the gorgeous Maryland sophisticate who is transplanted to the harsh, crude Texas environment. I think there is nobody else on earth who could have played the complicated part of Leslie Benedict. This is one of her finest appearances on the big screen. I list Ms. Taylor first on this listing, because she is the hub around which most of the story revolves.
Rock Hudson as Bick Benedict was a brilliant choice of producer/director George Stevens. The character of Mr. Benedict is the most complex of the three. Most people are acquainted or related to somebody like Bick. You know he’s wholesome and good to the very core, but he’s stuck with the cultural flaws of early 20th Century Texas. This includes a nacent flexibility imbedded in his native traditional, intolerant personality. This viewer always has trouble coping with Bick’s character until halfway through the film. At that point, I always start rooting for him. Even though I’ve seen the movie about a dozen times, I still get immersed in Rock Hudson’s depiction of the rancher.
What hasn’t been said about James Dean’s budding talent and raw, animal good looks? Dean played the part of Jett Rink in the most believable manner. Aside from the fact that James Dean is a legendary icon, upon first seeing Jett in the film, the viewer is enticed into liking him. If there can be such a person as a shy, awkward, loveable redneck, he would be Jett Rink. It is this characterization that keeps him three dimensional even after Jett devolves into a very crass, tacky nouveau riche oilman. This deeply tragic character is crafted to a Texas “T” by James Dean.
Sadly, for him and the world, Dean was killed in a car wreck shortly after the completion of the filming of “Giant”. We’ll never know what other masterful depictions could have come through James Dean’s skillful artistry.
If you haven’t yet seen “Giant”, you’ll also be treated to some wonderful supporting acting. Mercedes McCambridge pulls off the bull dyky Luz Benedict. Chill Wills is a great pick for Uncle Bawley. Sal Mineo wins hearts with his depiction of Angel Obregon the third.
“Giant” is a film from the epic, larger than life school. The opening scene with the old steam locomotive drawn train sets the mood instantly. The inclusion of old luxury cars and thoroughbred horses brings the setting into focus. The plot and plot complications are numerous, but flow beautifully into a solid, compelling story. Anybody who is motivated by women’s rights, racial intolerance and modernity will enjoy this movie. Many of the issues brought up by the story remain unresolved to this day.
If you’re wondering what to view this weekend, you might want to set aside about three and a quarter hours for “Giant”. The library copy of the film contained a double sided DVD for the movie itself plus a second DVD that contained special features and goodies about the film. I recommend this film highly.
“Giant” was released in 1956 by Warner Brothers. The film was based on a novel by the same name written by Edna Ferber. The cast includes: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, and Sal Mineo. Produced by George Stevens and Henry Ginsburg. Directed by George Stevens. It’s 3 hours 17 minutes in length.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is happy about the humane treatment of the animal actors.