Tag: Elizabeth Taylor

MOVIE REVIEW | ***B&D FLASHBACK SUNDAY) Giant (1956)

Giant.BelgianPoster.TN
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.

(Original review posted Oct 15, 2013)

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

MOVIE REVIEW | National Velvet (1944)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “It’s obvious from the second she appears that Elizabeth Taylor was destined for stardom.”

Velvet 1
“I want it all quickly ’cause I don’t want God to stop and think and wonder if I’m getting more than my share.”

My entire life, Elizabeth Taylor was the once great actress who’d become a punchline.  Jokes about her many marriages, jokes about her friendship with Michael Jackson as he was starting to transition from King of Pop to King of Weirdoes, jokes about her age and weight.  I always knew she had been a legit star, but that era was decades before I was born.  I’ve only seen a handful of her movies, and the only really great performance in that handful is her work on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.  But even with that limited experience, I figured I understood Elizabeth Taylor ‘s stardom and what she was all about.  But it turns out, before her sexpot roles, she also had a career as a child star that kicked off when she was only 12, totally nailing it in National Velvet.


Mi (Mickey Rooney) arrives in a small, quaint English seaside village looking for Mrs Brown (Anne Revere).  Mi’s father has recently died, and Mi found Mrs Brown’s name and address in his belongings.  With no idea what the connection is, Mi thinks that at the very least, he might be able to score some cash out of Mrs Brown.  When he arrives, Mrs Brown is cagey about how she knew his father, but convinces her husband (Donald Crisp) to hire Mi in their butcher shop. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #67. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.

 Woolf

“I swear, if you existed, I’d divorce you.”

Before starting this countdown, there were maybe 20 movies on the list I hadn’t seen before.  So that means the vast majority are movies I’m somewhat familiar with.  It’s great when it’s an excuse to re-watch something I’ve already seen countless times and know I love, like Goodfellas.  It’s a real chore when I have to sit through something I know I will hate all over again, like Titanic.  But I think the best results come when it’s a movie I’ve seen once, years ago, and remember liking, but don’t remember why.  Those have been the biggest rewards so far with this countdown, knowing I’ll like a movie, but being totally blown away by loving it.  It happened earlier with The Apartment and 12 Angry Men.  And today it happened more than ever before, with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) are a middle aged, married couple.  A very unhappy middle aged, married couple.  One night after a party with colleagues at the college where George is a professor, they invite over the latest addition to the college’s teaching staff and his wife, Nick (George Segal) and Honey.  An invitation grudgingly made by George and Martha at the behest of Martha’s father, who also happens to be the college president. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Giant (1956)

Giant.BelgianPoster.TN
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.

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

MOVIE REVIEW | A Place in the Sun (1951)

a_place_in_the_sun
I realised something watching this movie, I’m guilty of writing off older movies when it comes to darkness and grittiness.  Sure, there are gangster pictures, murder mysteries and war movies, but I sometimes assume they all come with a naïve innocence that makes them more like a cute attempt at darkness.  Then I see something like A Place in the Sun and am reminded that old movies can be just as dark and cynical as anything made today.

Things start so optimistically with A Place in the Son.  Montgomery Clift’s George Eastman arrives at the impressive offices of his uncle, Charles Eastman.  It seems the two only recently met, Charles took a liking to his poor nephew and has offered him a job at his successful factory.  With an entry level job on the factory floor, George gets to work trying to impress his uncle through hard work and dedication.  He meets fellow low level colleague Alice Tripp, played by Shelley Winters.  Against company policy, they totally hook up and start doin’ it.

Eventually, a little old fashion nepotism leads to George rising up the corporate and social ladder where he takes to the upper class life of his uncle a little too easily.  Especially when he meets the sex on legs society girl Angela Vickers, played by Elizabeth Taylor.  Soon, George is mixed up with both women and even manages to get the poor one knocked up.  With one pregnant and demanding he marry her, he decides the best way to confront the problem is to ignore it, and take off on holiday with the other.  Once Tripp becomes aware of George’s double life, it’s time for him to sort these two birds out, obviously with pretty terrible consequences for everyone concerned.  All just because George has a wondering schvonce.

The matter of fact way A Place in the Sun treats the pregnancy is what really surprised me.  I didn’t expect a movie this old to address something like at all.  But to do it as casually as it did surprised me even more.  It leads to the climactic events of the third act and becomes a major plot point that really drives a lot the story, but the initial reveal almost makes it a throw away aspect of the story.  I think that made the ultimate impact that much stronger.

A Place in the Sun is a pretty tried and true story.  A poor man with only the best intentions is quickly corrupted once he gets a taste of the good life.  A man goes from sending almost all of his money home to his mother, to contemplating the ultimate of evil acts in exchange for a life of money and leisure.

This movie is long and at times a little slow, but it really is worth a look.  Names like Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor became such an entrenched part of classic Hollywood cinema, it’s easy to assume you’ve seen them and know what they did to become such household names.  Then you actually see a movie like A Place in the Sun, you see with them doing the things that made then icons, and you realise how they became those icons, with names still so recognisible all these years later.

A Place in the Sun
Directed By – George Stevens
Written By – Theodore Dreiser