MOVIE REVIEW | Giant (1956)

Giant is the ‘other’ James Dean movie.  It’s not Rebel Without a Cause, it’s not East of Eden.  It’s the one that sometimes seems to be looked down on a little and seen as only a curiosity based on the James Dean factor.  But having watched Giant, all 3 hours and 20 minutes of it, I think it’s a great example of a kind of grand, extravagant film making that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Rock Hudson is Texas rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict.  On an excursion to Maine to buy a prized stallion, he meets, falls in love with and marries Elizabeth Taylor’s   Leslie.  This all happens in the first 10 minutes, so if you’re doing the maths, you’ve already worked out there’s another 3 hours and 10 minutes to fill.  Married before they even leave Maine, Leslie is already fully committed to Bick when they arrive in his desolate Texan wasteland home, complete with tumbleweeds. She is introduced to, and immediately despised by, Bick’s sister, the tough as nails Luz Benedict.  Luckily, Luz bites it soon after.  Unluckily, she leaves a parcel of land to James Dean’s Jett Rink, a not so great farm hand, not particularly liked by Brick.  Despite offers of twice what the land is thought to be worth, Jett keeps it in honour of Luz and out for spite for Rick.  Eventually, this spite pays off when Jett strikes oil and becomes the richest man in Texas.

A few fights and flirts with Jett and Bick later, Leslie grows into her role as a rancher’s wife and Giant takes a couple of jumps in the timeline, using their growing children and events like WWII as indicators as to where we are in the saga.  Once old enough, the Benedict’s eldest daughter threatens to head into Wuthering Heights territory with Jett, adding another reason for Bick to hate him even more as the years pass.

Even at its mammoth running time, Giant never slows down or becomes boring.  It covers roughly a quarter of a century and follows its characters through enough interesting story arcs to keep moving at a pretty cracking pace.  But even if it didn’t, the likes of Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean would make it possible to watch any old crap for hours on end.  Even in the later scenes when their old people make up is less than convincing, these three still manage to make their characters compelling, never goofy.

In the trio of major James Dean appearances, I’d definitely rate this over East of Eden and maybe even put it above Rebel Without a Cause.  I was seriously concerned about the running time as the opening credits began to roll, and I’ll admit to taking a break half way through, but not out of boredom.  Just out of my own inability to sit still for that long.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded if Giant was twice as long.

Directed By – George Stevens
Written By – Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat

4 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | Giant (1956)

  1. I appreciate your review…Giant is one of my all-time favourite “Epic” movies. But please fix your info in paragraph 2…it’s Bick and Leslie’s youngest daughter, Luz (named after her aunt) who falls for Jett, not their eldest. Happy Holidays!

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