Classic Movie Review: Giant (1956)

1956’s film Giant is an adaptation Edna Ferber’s novel of the same name and stars Hollywood legends Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean(It was also Dean’s last film).  It chronicles the life of wealthy Texas cattle hurdler Jordan Benedict(played by Hudson) and his wife Leslie(played by Taylor).  Benedict travels to Maryland to buy a horse for his ranch from Leslie’s family.  Leslie is a young, attractive gal with a perhaps too progressive attitude for Benedict as she’s not afraid to inquire openly into his affairs(this sets them up to clash during the course of their marriage) .  The two are attracted to each other, thus beginning the union of the traditionalist Mr. Benedict and non-traditionalist Leslie.

Mr. Benedict takes his wife back to his home in Texas, thus starting their lives as newly weds.  Leslie must adapt to the culture shock that is Texas and the traditional way of both Mr. Benedict and his friends.  The film chronicles their marriage from its beginning and until around 25 years down the line.  Mr. Benedict intends to have a son to follow in his footsteps and one day run the ranch.  As the development of oil refining in the area increases(discovered by Benedict’s former ranch hand Jett(Dean) ), Benedict initially resists join in the new craze.  Benedict is also initially resistant to Leslie’s embrace of local hispanics.  However,  Benedict eventually gives into change has his lifelong plan ultimately collapse when his son eventually marries a hispanic, refuses to run the ranch and decides to instead become a doctor.

Benedict is eventually forced to give into the oil refinery craze and agrees to a deal with Jett about oil refining on his land.  We see Benedict suddenly let his guard down and eventually give into Leslie’s progressive, untraditional attitude as he defends a few hispanics discriminated against at a local diner towards the end.  The defense of the hispanics(which results in an ensuing fight between Benedict and the diner manager) becomes one of Leslie’s favorite moments by her husband.  The movie totals over three hours long and features breakout performances by Taylor and Dean.

Giant is a chronicle of a traditionalist(Benedict) giving into the changing times, urged on by a wife who is way ahead of her time(Leslie).  It’s the forced collapse of traditionalist dreams due to a combination of the changing times and the separate wants and desires of those whom Benedict is close to.

3.5/5 Stars


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