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Giant (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1956)

1 rating: 5.0
Classics and Drama movie directed by George Stevens

They call itGiantbecause everything in this picture is big, from the generous running time (more than 200 minutes) to the sprawling ranch location (a horizon-to-horizon plain with a lonely, modest mansion dropped in the middle) to the high-powered stars. … see full wiki

Director: George Stevens
Genre: Classics, Drama
1 review about Giant (Two-Disc Special Edition) (1956)

More Relevant Than I Once Thought

  • Jul 7, 2003
Not having read Edna Ferber's novel on which this film is supposedly based, I am obviously unqualified to comment on how faithful it is to the original material. George Stevens directed the film, working with a screenplay co-authored by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat. I saw it when it was first released in 1956, immediately put off by what I viewed as the boorishness of the native Texans, especially Vashti Synthe (Jane Withers) and Uncle Bawley (Cill Wills), who bear at least some resemblance to members of the Jed Clampett family. Then and now, I think Rock Hudson is only infrequently believable as Bick Benedict. Not so Elizabeth Taylor as Leslie Lynnton Benedict. Gordon Bau and his staff must be faulted for the sometimes ineffective make-up work, notably on the Benedicts and Jett Rink (James Dean) in their later years. At any moment, I expected an elderly and enfeebled Charles Foster Kane to appear, announcing that he is Fuz Benedict, the long-lost cousin of Bick and his sister Luz (Mercedes McCambridge).

While viewing this film again recently, however, I appreciated much more than I had before efforts made in it to address some very important and highly controversial racial issues. Keep in mind that this film was released only two years after the historic Supreme Court decision which declared racial segregation unconstitutional and therefore illegal. At least the larger ranches in the Southwest, plantations in the Deep South, and mining communities in the Southeast were, in effect, empires with well-entrenched and fiercely defended social and economic hierarchies. Throughout all levels, everyone was very class-conscious. Any challenge of the prevailing values was perceived as a threat to the entire culture.

I was fascinated by Bick Benedict's gradual, sometimes grudging acceptance of new perspectives on race and "place." That progression is largely explained by his son Jordan's marriage and parenthood. Slights to Jordan's wife prepare us (and Benedict) for the climactic scene in the diner which clearly indicates how significantly his perspectives have changed. Oh sure, his response to the proprietor reflects Benedict's family pride and macho temperament but I think his behavior makes an important statement which brings the film to an appropriate conclusion, one which I had not previously appreciated.

Some portions of Giant still seem corny and mushy to me; other portions seem dated. However, on balance, I think the film makes an important contribution to understanding where our society has been and where it seems to be now so that, hopefully, we will be better-prepared to resolve whichever issues are still divisive. With all due respect to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights as well as to the Supreme Court, there are certain matters which can only be affirmed and sustained by the human heart. I was again reminded of that while seeing this film again.

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