Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean
'Giant' is a dramatic epic film about two generations of a Texas family, made in 1956, directed by George Stevens from the novel by Edna Ferber. The movie stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean with a high quality supporting cast featuring Carroll Baker, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper and Sal Mineo. James Dean made only three films as a leading actor and 'Giant' was the third and last, and earned him his second Academy Award nomination - he was killed in a car crash shortly after completing his part.
The movie was a major commercial success and its initial release generated $12million, becoming, at the time, the most successful picture in Warner Bros' history. George Stevens won the Academy Award for Best Director and the movie received a further nine unsuccessful Oscar nominations, including two for Best Actor (James Dean and Rock Hudson), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mercedes McCambridge), Best Picture, and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Dimitri Tiomkin.
In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
Edna Ferber specialised in writing sprawling family sagas, several of them set in the West. Her 1930 novel 'Cimarron' was twice filmed by Hollywood, as was the 1926 film 'Show Boat', set in the Deep South. She wrote 'Giant' in 1950 and it is an ambitious epic which starts in the 1920's and traces the rise and fall in the fortunes of two generations of a wealthy cattle-ranching family. There is also an interesting subplot concerning racial and class differences.
Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) is a Texas cattle baron who marries a spirited Maryland belle, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) and brings her back to his enormous family cattle ranch, Reata. Bick's sister has left some of the property to Jett Rink (James Dean), a who used to work for Bick as a cowhand. Rink discovers oil, starts an oil drilling company and becomes immensely rich, but his personal life is a disappointment (he carries a torch for Leslie) and he declines into alcoholism. As Bick and Leslie grow older, they are concerned with who will run the ranch after they've gone. Their daughter (Carroll Baker) wants to take over, but Leslie doesn't approve. To Bick's disappointment, their son (Dennis Hopper) has married a Latina woman and become a doctor. Eventually Bick and Leslie come to terms with life and are able to gaze contentedly at their two grandsons, one white, one brown, who represent the future.
At well over three hours, 'Giant' certainly lives up to its title, and the performances are outstanding, particularly that of James Dean. Director George Stevens does justice to the immensity of the Texas landscape, and unusually for the time the film deals interestingly with both racial and class differences, giving a clear indictment of the racist culture of Texas at that time. The movie illustrates well the callous discrimination against women and Mexicans or "wetbacks"-Texans of Mexican descent.
'Giant' is a long movie at three hours twenty-one minute running time but its epic scale justifies the length.
Main CastElizabeth 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
Earl Holliman ... "Bob" Dace
Paul Fix ... Dr. Horace Lynnton
Judith Evelyn ... Mrs. Nancy Lynnton
Fran Bennett ... Judy Benedict
Elsa Cárden ... ... Juana Guerra Benedict
Nick Adams ... Jett Rink - Giving Banquet Speech (voice)
Dan White (uncredited) ... Truck Driver in Diner
Monte Hale ... Bale Clinch
Max Terhune ... Dr. Walker
Alexander Scourby ... Old Polo
CreditsDirector ... George Stevens
Producer ... George Stevens
Screenplay ... Fred Guiol,Ivan Moffat, from novel by Edna Ferber
Music ... Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography ... William C. Mellor
Format ... Color (WarnerColor)
Distribution Company ... Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Release Date ... 10 Oct 1956
Running Time ... 201 mins
Academy AwardsOne Win:
Best Director ... George Stevens
Nine Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Warner Bros.
Best Actor ... Rock Hudson
Best Actor ... James Dean
Best Supporting Actress ... Mercedes McCambridge
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color ... Boris Leven, Ralph S. Hurst
Best Writing, Screenplay, Adapted ... Fred Guiol,Ivan Moffat
Best Costume Design, Color ... Moss Mabry and Marjorie Best
Best Film Editing ... William Hornbeck
Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture ... Dimitri Tiomkin