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Giant Movie Review

benedict stevens george lynnton

1956 – George Stevens –

The adjective “sprawling” is overused but fits exactly the feel of George Stevens' movie of a Texas cattle family. From the grand opening music to the sweeping panorama of barren West Texas cattle land that runs to the horizon, Giant lives up to its name. The center of the movie is the ranch Reata, half a million acres with its nearest neighbor fifty miles away. The huge Gothic mansion in the center of this desolate land is indicative of wealth still unable to tame or soften harsh nature. The people are also big and harsh. Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) and his sister Luz (Carroll Baker) are brave, honest, narrow, stubborn, and take their wealth and whiteness for granted.

Enter the civilizing influence of Maryland-bred Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), Bick's beautiful wife. As the years go by, even the sets show the force of her quiet, capable hand. Dark colors are lightened in the mansion, paintings replace cow heads on the walls, and a lawn and pool shut out part of the desert. Even the hired hand Jett Rink, the role that helped to make James Dean a legend, responds to Leslie's kindness and compassion. In fact, all of his success when he strikes big oil cannot fill his yearning for her love.

In addition to sweeping vistas, a cast of dozens of memorable characters populate the story: the children who are determined to make their own lives, the kindly old uncle who smooths troubled waters, the simple neighbors who have struck oil and make a “million a month”—dollars, that is. And the feel of Texas is here, too, from the scorching heat to the smell of barbequed calves' head to the squalor of poor villages and the grandeur of oil and cattle money. Stevens also tackled a number of issues that were uncommon for the 1950s, like the independent woman and the cancer of racial bigotry. In fact, watching Bick Benedict grow as he finds himself saddled with a thinking wife, rebellious children, and a “muchacho” grandson is one of the lasting satisfactions of an epic that promises that we can hold on to good traditions while changing the bad ones.

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor (Leslie Lynnton Benedict), Rock Hudson (Jordan “Bick” Benedict), James Dean (Jett Rink), Carroll Baker (Luz Benedict the younger), Mercedes McCambridge (Luz Benedict the elder), Chill Wills (Uncle Bawley), Jane Withers (Vashti Smythe), Robert Nichols (Pinky Smythe), Dennis Hopper (Jordan Benedict III), Fran Bennett (Judy Benedict), Elsa Cardenas (Juana Benedict), Carolyn Craig (Lacey Lynnton), Judith Evelyn (Mrs. Horace Lynnton), Paul Fix (Dr. Horace Lynnton), Sal Mineo (Angel Obregon), Earl Holliman (Bob Dace), Alexander Scourby (Old Polo), Rod Taylor (Sir David Karfrey), Sheb Wooley (Gabe Target), Nick Adams (voice of Jett Rink in narration) Screenwriter: Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat Cinematographer: William C. Mellor Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin Producer: George Stevens and Henry Ginsberg for Warner Bros. Running Time: 201 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards, 1957: Director (George Stevens); Nominations: Picture, Actor (James Dean), Actor (Rock Hudson), Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge), Screenplay, Art/Set Direction, Score, Film Editing, Costume design; Directors Guild of America Awards, 1956: Director (George Stevens) Box Office: reportedly, the film made $12M.

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