Tag: George Stevens

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 | 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