Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean
GIANT (1956). Director: George Stevens.

Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson) marries the feisty, independent-minded Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) and comes to realize that meek compliance is not in her nature. Meanwhile, the arrogant, slouching ranch hand Jett Rink (James Dean) discovers oil on the property left to him by Benedict's sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) and is soon even wealthier than Jordan, leading to various complications and a couple of fight scenes. This long, sprawling saga is entertaining for the most part, and features one of Taylor's best performances. Hudson isn't the best casting, but he isn't bad, and the odd Dean makes a minor impression as well. Giant is not really a masterpiece, but it does have some good scenes: the Benedict children discovering that their Thanksgiving dinner is their pet turkey; Leslie telling off the men who think women have no place in politics; Angel (Sal Mineo) "coming home" from WW2. The other cast members include Carolyn Craig (House on Haunted Hill) as Leslie's younger sister; Rod[ney] Taylor as her cast-off suitor, who later on marries said sister; Carroll Baker as Leslie's daughter [in her second film and first big role]; Chill Wills as Uncle Bawley; Dennis Hopper as the Benedict son, Jordy, who, like his mother, has a mind of his own; Elsa Cardenas as Jordy's Mexican wife; and Earl Holliman as Bob, the husband of the youngest Benedict daughter, Judy (Fran Bennett). Of the supporting players, Hopper and McCambridge provide the most vivid performances. Giant has an admirable sub-text on the evils of racism -- both Benedict and Rink are prejudiced against the "wetbacks" -- but this might have had more impact if the Mexican characters, such as Angel, were developed a lot more.

Verdict: Long, but generally sustains interest, and -- surprisingly -- Taylor is the glue holding it all together. ***.

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