Wednesday, 30 March 2011


By luck and good programming the first of what I suspect will be a season of Dame Elizabeth’s films, Giant was on the television as her death was announced. Cleopatra is also available at the moment. Giant was an original Edna Faber novel about the development of Texas from a cattle ranching into the present day oil rich state of which Dallas the 1980’s series which is being resurrected with some of the survivors of the original cast. I watched the film with growing impatience disliking all the characters except Elizabeth.

Rick Hudson always looked good but who performances always appeared dry for me but his performance in Giant as a Neanderthal heterosexual male is effective give his homosexuality. He plays Jordan Bick Benedict who owns half of Texas cattle ranching with his sister who has James Dean working for her.

On a visit to Maryland to buy a stud horse Hudson sets on Elizabeth Taylor who is an educated socialite with enlightened parents who misguidedly falls for his charms without realising all he wants is a breeding machine to produce a son to inherit and carry on enlarging the empire.

His typical Texan mentality is that politics is not for women and that no one who is poor or a different race should enter his kingdom brutally stolen from the indigenous land holders. He is in every sense a nasty bit of work and nothing much changes throughout the film until he is forced by circumstances. Elizabeth quickly realises she had made a poor choice and escapes to her family only to return. She also crosses swords with the sister who is just as prejudiced against the Mexicans a her brother and her assistant James Dean.

The sister and Elizabeth hate each other but she dies from a horse riding accident and in her will leaves a comparatively small plot of land to Dean where he starts to drill for oil much to the horror of Hudson who tries all he can to get him off. Elizabeth is sympathetic to Dean and visits him alone after she has become a mother of twins, to be played by Dennis Hopper and Fran Bennett when they become adults. There is a third child played by Carol Baker who becomes the most silly and obnoxious of all the characters.

When he strikes oil Dean visits Hudson and boasts of how rich and important he going to be and cannot disguise his passion for Taylor and the two men fight and go their separate ways. Although wealthy from the oil on his land Dean and his advisers realise their horizon is limited so he establishes an oil prospecting and drilling company and when the Second World War breaks out he persuades Hudson to do his national duty and soon a forest of well cover the estate although is still possible to ranch cattle. The old house is replaced by a mansion with an outdoor swimming pool. To some extent the story is repeated in Dallas with the Ewing’s and Cliff Barnes.

As mentioned the son and heir is played by Dennis Hopper who made his name in Easy Rider and became and become a recognised major actor. As a child, under his mother‘s influence he shows no interest in ranching and under mother’s influence goes off to Harvard to study medicine and qualifies a medical doctor with a social conscious marrying a Mexican from the family estate. The twin sister wants to attend local ranching school and marry the head rancher who Hudson likes and which does against herm mother’s wish that she attends a finishing school in Switzerland. When the ranch hand returns from World War II service he and his wife reject the offer of inheriting the ranch for their own small places and making their way. I forget who suggests to Hudson that he might return the land to the indigenous Americans!

When Dean visits to persuade Hudson to exploit the oil, Carol Baker flirts with Dean, a man who is now more than twice her age. Dean then organises a self congratulatory gala in his own honour to mark his increasingly powerful role as Texas leading citizen and philanthropist

Mr Dean shot to International fame with two films released in 1955, Rebel without a Cause and East of Eden. He died in a car accident before Giant was completed in 1956. Dean was a product of the Actor’s studio and Method acting with Lee Strasbourg and while he seems to be continuing his Rebel, but with cause role in the early part of this film, the role requires him to become a ruthless, personally ambitious capitalist and racists to boot. In the film he invites Hudson and his family to the event and they misguidedly agree. They find that he has remained as vicious a racists as ever and his staff make a point of rejecting the daughter in law at every opportunity. While he had made Carol Baker Princess of the Carnival and she wants him he has not intention of marrying her and his sense of grievance continues with every wish to humiliate the family. He is able to knock Hudson out with the help of his personal security. Hudson then has a second confrontation over racism, this time with the manager of a diner who is only carrying out company policy in not serving any non white colours. He has reluctantly agree to serve his son in law‘s wife and her papoose because of who they are, but rejects a Mexican family who son died during the war and was buried with honour on the Benedict burial site on the estate. Elizabeth has meanwhile grown old gracefully. The film ends at this point

The films last three hours and 17 minutes was nominated for ten Oscars without success, made a lot of money and in 2005 was put in the Library of Congress being culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

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