Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Giant (1956)


Elizabeth Taylor ... Leslie Lynnton 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 Obregón II
Rod Taylor ... Sir David Karfrey (as Rodney Taylor)
Judith Evelyn ... Mrs. Nancy Lynnton
Earl Holliman ... 'Bob' Dace
Robert Nichols ... Mort 'Pinky' Snythe
Paul Fix ... Dr. Horace Lynnton
Alexander Scourby ... Old Polo


Director and Producer....George Stevens
Screenwriter.... Ivan Moffat
Editor... William Hornbeck
Director of Photography...William Mellor
Editor... Philip W. Anderson 
Editor...Fred Bohanan
Producer...Henry Ginsberg
Composer ...Dimitri Tiomkin
Production Designer...Boris Leven
Screenwriter ...Fred Guiol
Costume Design...Moss Mabry and Marjorie Best

Production Notes:

Made for $5.4 million, Giant was filmed in Texas (Marfa, Valentine, Presidio County, Jeff Davis County), Charlottesville,Virginia (Albemarle County), California (Lake Arrowhead, Burbank, Los Angeles) and Arizona. Boris Leven designed the big Victorian mansion known as Reata in the movie, which rested near the small town of Marfa, Texas. Director George Stevens employed an open set during filming, with the Marfa townspeople venturing out to watch the production.

Casting Notes:

Elizabeth Taylor was not the first choice to play Leslie. Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn were considered before Elizabeth.

Bill Holden was first choice for Bick Bennedict and Robert Mitchum and Alan Ladd were considered  to  play Jett Rink.


Giant premiered at New York City’s Roxy Theatre on October 10, 1956.  Most People only know Giant as the last James Dean's last  picture, but it is more than that, Giant is a plead for tolerance and equalty that should resonate today, specially for it's accuracy. Racial equality and  Women's equal rights are themes  in this film.

Based on Edna Ferber's novel, the film takes place across 25 years mainly around two characters: Doctor's daughter Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor as beautiful as ever) and cattle baron Jordan "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson).  They meet when Bick travels to Maryland to buy Leslie's horse (War Winds). Sparks fly and Bick ends up taking more than a horse back to Texas, He takes a wife.  You do not see their wedding in the film. However, you do see her sister's marriage later in the film. Leslie leaves her family and fiance (Rod Taylor) and boards a train with Bick.

At first sight, flat and dusty west Texas is a shock to Leslie, but she is  determined to make her marriage work.  This does not sit well with his sister Luz (Mercedes MacCambridge). A power struggle between the two women quickly developes and as a result of an accident,  Leslie wins. War Winds and Luz lose.  Through 25 plus years, Bick and Leslie try to keep their marriage afloat despite several bumps on the road, among them, the diferent expectations concerning their children, and a worker who later becomes a tycoon Jet Rink (James Dean) who secretly loves Taylor's character and envies Hudson's.  Bick's racist view toward the Mexicans is also a recurring theme. That racism makes Bick a very interesting character who is asked to change constantly in the film. It makes  Hudson's role is  big challenge, but he pulls  it off. Elizabeth Taylor, who did not have a character as deep as Hudson, carries the huge film and does a commendable job. She is particullary good in the scenes where she is standing up for her right to listen/speak, while her husband and his cronies talk politics. Watch  for Texan Chill Wills..he is a bona fide scene stealer as crusty, cantankerous Uncle Bawley. 

Chill Wills below:

 James Dean, despite having a lot less screen time than the other two, shows why he had a huge future in film. Tragically, he would lose his life days after completing his portion of the film.  Warner Brothers made Dean sign an agreement that he would not drive his racecar while working on the film. He was driving the  Porshe to a race when someone pulled in front of him. He and his mechanic passenger were killed instantly when they hit the car.

 Jett Rink becomes a destroyed man who, despite achieving all kind of wealth, all kind of power, is miserable, is nothing after not having the only thing he wants, the love of  a Benedict. First it was Leslie, later it was her Daughter Luz (Carroll Baker). 


Another favorite Stevens' staple requires applying aging makeup to his lead actors, and Giant does this to great effect to its three main characters. Hudson and Dean wear padding to show the battle of the bulge that comes with middle age. Dean, Hudson and Taylor age effectively from the use of  facial makeup and streaks of gray hair.

Moss Mabry and Majorie Best were the costume designers for Giant. Moss Mabry also designed the famous red jacket worn by James Dean in the classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

Giant (wardrobe for Elizabeth Taylor's character)  was one of his most difficult assignments.  The script called for Elizabeth to make 42 clothing changes.

Young Leslie

Middle aged Leslie and some special visitors-her real life children:

Middle aged Leslie and Bick below:

Middle aged Jett Rink below:


Dean gives a great performance for sure, this film has excellent performances all around, including a young Dennis Hopper. He plays the conflicted son of Bick and Leslie.

Young Dennis Hopper

Rock Hudson has to show Bick's gradual transformation is seen only through the broad strokes of arguments and fistfights, and his literal landing at the bottom the salad bar of Sarge's cafe to the tune of "Yellow Rose of Texas" adds the exclamation point.

Taylor shows off her notable acting talent in this film. Not only does the 23-year old actress look like a middle aged Texas matron during the second reel, but she moves like one and takes on the entire body language of a mature woman. She also changed to voice  and gave it a  weaker sound/cadence. Although Dean's performance is the one most remembered, Taylor's work is great too. One of her best.

The film is truly an epic as big as Texas. The cinematogrphy is GIANT as well. George Stevens has always had a knack for landscapes. The only downside was that the film slowed at Jett's Hotel opening. I like to call this film the original "Dallas". Definitely one of the best soapy films of the 1950's.


  • Edna Ferber based the Jett Rink Character on real life Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy.  With his oil earnings he opened the Shamrock Hotel in Houston,TX . He spent over $1 million on the opening, dubbed "Houston's biggest party." He also had his own private jet.

  • Molassas was used as a substitute for oil

  • James Dean's last film. He died driving his racecar a few days after his portion of filming was completed.

  • War Winds is played by the same horse that was used in the film, BLACK BEAUTY.

  • George Stevens shot  860,000 ft of film for GIANT.  It took 1 year to edit the 3 year project.

  • The Worth/Evans ranch in Marfa,TX was used as Riata for the film.  The Reata Ranch House  was only a 3 sided facade. Not many people know it, but the design for the Reata Ranch House is based on a real Texas mansion. It was based on the  Waggoner Mansion. It still stands in Decatur, Texas, northwest of Fort Worth.

  • The large picture in the Reatta Ranch House was borrowed from a Hotel. It now hangs at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.

Reata Ranch House below:   

The Waggoner Mansion below:


Adarene Clinch: "Why, Luz, everybody in this county knows you'd rather herd cattle than make love."

Luz Benedict: "Well, there's one thing you got to say for cattle... boy, you put your brand on one of them, you're gonna know where it's at!"

Jett Rink: Everybody thought I had a duster. Y'all thought ol' Spindletop Burke and Burnett was all the oil there was, didn't ya? Well, I'm here to tell you that it ain't, boy! It's here, and there ain't a dang thing you gonna do about it! My well came in big, so big, Bick and there's more down there and there's bigger wells. I'm rich, Bick. I'm a rich 'un. I'm a rich boy. Me, I'm gonna have more money than you ever *thought* you could have -- you and all the rest of you stinkin' sons of ... Benedicts!


Academy of Motion Picture Sciences (Oscar)

  • Winner-Georgie Stevens-  Best Director 1957
  • Nominated Oscar Best Actor in a Leading Role-James Dean
  • Nominated Best Actor in a Leading Role-Rock Hudson
  • Best Actress in a Supporting Role-Mercedes McCambridge
  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color-Boris Leven and Ralph Hurst
  • Best Costume Design, Color-Moss Mabry and Marjorie Best
  • Best Film Editing-William Hornbeck,Phillip Anderson, and Fred Bohanan
  • Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture-Dimitri Tiomkin
  • Best Picture-George Stevens and Henry Ginsberg
  • Best Writing, Best Screenplay - Adapted-Fred Guiold and Ivan Moffat

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