Giant, directed by George Stevens, is all about contrasts—the supposed magnanimity of the liberal east vs. parched, bigoted Texas. A mammoth potboiler, just like Edna Ferber’s novel, but over the years it has acquired huge cult status, due, first, to James Dean having died shortly after completing his scenes; second, to Stevens’s reputation as one of Hollywood’s upper echelon moviemakers; third, to Rock Hudson and his closeted homosexuality; fourth, to Elizabeth Taylor, who befriended Dean and Hudson because she was, though she didn’t yet know it by definition, moviedom’s most beautiful, compassionate fag hag. Taylor is the picture’s best asset; guided with a needed measure of fatherly sternness by Stevens, she’s charming as a pre-feminist not about to let her Texan stud hubby or his dyke sister (Mercedes McCambridge) push her around. She seemed relaxed in a very comfortable fit as Angela Vickers in A Place in the Sun; here, she’s really going for a stretch—aging thirty years before the camera—and doing it with warmth, a sense of purpose. (She also does a fun variation of Scarlett’s “morning after.”) One major weakness—the makeup. There’s just no way it’s convincing—it wasn’t back when the film was released in 1956 and it’s a hoot today. You swear that you can see Gordon Bau (the makeup supervisor) spraying gray on the wigs, applying fresh aging lines around the eyes between takes. You recall every bad high school play you sat through when you watch Taylor (at 23) commiserating with her soon-to-be adult daughter Carroll Baker (at 24). And Marjorie Best’s and Moss Mabry’s costumes for Taylor are probably authentic to the periods but most uncomplimentary. As Steven’s thematic polarities, Hudson looks the size of Texas standing next to Taylor, and Dean, initially interesting in a part he’s not suited for, eventually becomes a vexing bore. Judging from the size of the novel, how lackluster it is, how, as Stevens said, “it’s interested in small things, smaller than usual because the background is so vast,” Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat penned an episodic script matching most of the characters’ small-mindedness. (A great party game: how many stories are Stevens, Guiol and Moffat trying to tell?) Something pointedly ugly about the Texas Stevens shows us—it’s not false to history, or false visually, but it’s highly and lastingly pejorative. With Rod Taylor, Sal Mineo, Earl Holliman, Dennis Hopper and Chill Wills playing the Benedict organ funereally (it takes three hours and 13 minutes before Hudson complains about it). Academy Award nominations for best picture, actor (Hudson and Dean), supporting actress (McCambridge), screenplay—adapted, color art direction (Boris Leven and Ralph Hurst), scoring for a dramatic or comedy picture (Dimitri Tiomkin), film editing, color costumes; winning best direction. William C. Mellor and Edwin DuPar did the photography. In Chicago, the movie was not given the hardticket treatment. Filmed in Spherical.
ROLL OVER IMAGE
Text COPYRIGHT © 2001 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.