Giant (1956)

195 or 197-198 mins | Drama | 24 November 1956

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HISTORY

Edna Ferber's novel Giant was said to have been based on the life of Texas oil mogul Glen McCarthy. The film was shot on location in Marfa and Valentine, TX, and Charlottesville, VA. The large Benedict home was built at the Warner Bros. prop department and shipped to the Worth Evans Ranch, twenty-one miles from Marfa, where the facade remains. The oil derricks seen in the film were also built in Hollywood and transported to the Texas film site. Valentine was the location of the film's Mexican village, and Charlottesville, the site of "Leslie Lynnton Benedict's" Maryland family home. The Maryland sequences were shot on a seventeenth-century estate. According to an Aug 1955 HR news item, portions of the film were shot in the lobby of the Statler Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. Production notes claim that of the hundreds of Texans hired to play extras in the film, ten were millionaires. Most of the extras appear in the film's barbecue scene. Other efforts to realistically render Texas included dialogue director Robert Hinkle's recording all the dialogue for the actors who played Texans and then having them listen to the tapes to learn the proper accents.
       Contemporary reviews for the film praised its direct and unflinching portrayal of racism. Reviews singled out the scene in which patriarch "Bick Benedict," accompanied by his Mexican daughter-in-law and her son, brawls with a diner owner while trying to defend a group of Mexicans who have been refused service. During the fight, the song "Yellow Rose of Texas" played on the diner's jukebox. After the film's release, that version of the song became ... More Less

Edna Ferber's novel Giant was said to have been based on the life of Texas oil mogul Glen McCarthy. The film was shot on location in Marfa and Valentine, TX, and Charlottesville, VA. The large Benedict home was built at the Warner Bros. prop department and shipped to the Worth Evans Ranch, twenty-one miles from Marfa, where the facade remains. The oil derricks seen in the film were also built in Hollywood and transported to the Texas film site. Valentine was the location of the film's Mexican village, and Charlottesville, the site of "Leslie Lynnton Benedict's" Maryland family home. The Maryland sequences were shot on a seventeenth-century estate. According to an Aug 1955 HR news item, portions of the film were shot in the lobby of the Statler Hotel in Los Angeles, CA. Production notes claim that of the hundreds of Texans hired to play extras in the film, ten were millionaires. Most of the extras appear in the film's barbecue scene. Other efforts to realistically render Texas included dialogue director Robert Hinkle's recording all the dialogue for the actors who played Texans and then having them listen to the tapes to learn the proper accents.
       Contemporary reviews for the film praised its direct and unflinching portrayal of racism. Reviews singled out the scene in which patriarch "Bick Benedict," accompanied by his Mexican daughter-in-law and her son, brawls with a diner owner while trying to defend a group of Mexicans who have been refused service. During the fight, the song "Yellow Rose of Texas" played on the diner's jukebox. After the film's release, that version of the song became a hit record. Rock Hudson, in a later interview, claimed that when he viewed the film for the first time with an audience, he was booed throughout, but when the audience cheered him in the diner scene he realized the reaction was to his character and not to his abilities as an actor. The 10 Oct 1956 HR review stated that, due to its portrayal of race, the film "has the drumbeat of contemporary history," and the DV review noted that Giant demonstrates how racism against Mexicans in the Southwest is "as bad, and as wrong, as the Negro's situation in the Deep South and elsewhere."
       According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, careful representation of ethnicity seemed to be the Code office's only concern. Geoffrey Shurlock requested that the producers of the film receive "adequate technical advice" in filming the Mexican wedding ceremony and burial ritual. The film received the following Academy Award nominations: Best Actor (James Dean, Rock Hudson), Supporting Actress (Mercedes McCambridge), Art Direction, Color (Boris Leven and Ralph S. Hurst), Costume Design, Color, (Moss Mabry and Marjorie Best), Film Editing (William Hornbeck, Philip W. Anderson and Fred Bohanan), Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Dmitri Tiomkin), Best Adapted Screenplay (Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat) and Best Picture. George Stevens won the award for Best Direction. Giant marked Carrol Baker's first major film role, the American film debut of Elsa Cardenas and James Dean's final screen performance. On 30 Sep 1955, four days after filming his final scenes, Dean was killed in a car crash near Salinas, CA. Many reviews singled Dean out for praise, and the Var review called Dean's performance "outstanding," and stated that "the film only proves what a promising talent has been lost." Many modern sources have stated that, following Dean's death, actor Nick Adams dubbed his voice in the banquet scene.
       According to modern and contemporary sources, Grace Kelly was sought for the role of Leslie Benedict. Modern sources claim that once her engagement to Prince Rainier of Monaco was announced, however, M-G-M decided not to loan her out for Giant . Elizabeth Taylor, who ultimately received the highly desirable role, was also under to M-G-M, which loaned her out to Warner Bros. Modern sources also claim that Hudson, when given the choice of his leading lady by Stevens, chose Taylor. Taylor, who had recently given birth to her second child, was apparently plagued with health problems during the shooting, a fact that did not help the troubled relationship between Taylor and director Stevens. Modern interviews with Hudson and Taylor reported that the day after Dean's death was announced, Stevens required a distraught and inconsolable Taylor to complete reaction shots for a scene she had played with Dean, and that the actress never forgave him. A Mar 1955 HR news item reported that Gloria Rhoads was considered for the role of “Juana,” which was played by Elsa Cardenas in the film. HR news items add Rocky Ybarra and Dale Van Sickle to the cast, but their appearance in the film has not been confirmed. An Oct 1996 AmCin article includes Jack Trent ( Guest ) in the cast and adds the following names to the crew credits: Spec visual eff Jack Cosgrove; Makeup Bill Woods; Hairdresser Ruby Felkner; Dance dir Bob Osgood; and Scr supv Howard Hohler. More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Mar 56
pp. 158-59, 174-76.
American Cinematographer
Oct 96
pp. 86-92.
Box Office
13 Oct 56
p. 20.
Box Office
27 Oct 1956.
---
Daily Variety
10 Oct 56
p. 3.
Film Daily
10 Oct 56
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Oct 1954
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Nov 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Mar 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Mar 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
20 May 55
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Aug 1955
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Sep 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Sep 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 1955
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 55
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Oct 56
p. 3.
LAMirror-News
7 Jul 1955.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
8 Mar 1955.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Sep 1956.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Oct 1956.
---
Motion Picture Daily
10 Oct 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
20 Oct 56
p. 114.
New York Times
11 Oct 56
p. 51.
Variety
10 Oct 56
p. 6.
Variety
1 Aug 57
p. 1, 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A George Stevens Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
2d unit dir
2d unit asst dir
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Dial dir
PRODUCERS
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
2d unit photog
Asst cam
Asst cam
Loc cam
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Assoc film ed
Assoc film ed
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost des
Miss Taylor's cost des
Men's ward
Men's ward
Men's ward
Women's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
Hairdresser
Body makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
Asst prod mgr
Unit mgr
Loc mgr
Accounting
Scr supv
Casting
Unit pub
Greenman
Best boy
STAND INS
Stand-in for Elizabeth Taylor
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Giant by Edna Ferber (New York, 1952).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Giant" and "There's Never Been Anyone Else But You," music by Dimitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster
"Yellow Rose of Texas," traditional.
DETAILS
Release Date:
24 November 1956
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 10 October 1956
Los Angeles opening: 17 October 1956
Production Date:
mid May--mid October 1955
Copyright Claimant:
Giant Productions
Copyright Date:
24 November 1956
Copyright Number:
LP9719
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Recording
Color
Warner Color
Widescreen/ratio
1.66:1
Duration(in mins):
195 or 197-198
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17675
SYNOPSIS

In the mid-1920s, Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict II goes to Maryland to buy "War Winds," a prized stallion, from Dr. Horace Lynnton. There Bick falls in love with Lynnton's spirited elder daughter Leslie. After Leslie breaks her engagement to Englishman Sir David Karfrey, they quickly marry and Bick brings Leslie back to his enormous ranch, Reata. When they arrive in the dusty, windswept town named after Bick's family, Leslie graciously greets their Mexican-American driver, Angel Obregon, and Bick admonishes her not to be too kind to "those people." Bick's tough, cattle-driving sister Luz throws a party for the newlyweds and Leslie faints when she is served a plate of barbequed calves' heads. Determined to become a real Texan, however, Leslie rises early the next morning and takes the breakfast duties away from Luz, who looks upon Leslie as a rival to her position as head of the household. While Luz, Bick and Leslie are out driving cattle, Bick sends Leslie home with Jett Rink, a rough cowboy who is close to Luz, but clashes with Bick. On the way back to Bick's mansion, Leslie insists on stopping in Reata, where the poor Mexican laborers live. Leslie goes into one of the hovels and discovers that a mother, Mrs. Obregon, and her newborn, Angel III, are seriously ill. Returning home, Leslie learns that Luz has taken a serious fall while trying to break War Winds. After Luz dies, Leslie asks the doctor to go to the village to tend to the Obregons' sick baby, despite Bick's protests that their family physician should not tend to "those people." At the funeral, Bick, his lawyer and other ... +


In the mid-1920s, Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict II goes to Maryland to buy "War Winds," a prized stallion, from Dr. Horace Lynnton. There Bick falls in love with Lynnton's spirited elder daughter Leslie. After Leslie breaks her engagement to Englishman Sir David Karfrey, they quickly marry and Bick brings Leslie back to his enormous ranch, Reata. When they arrive in the dusty, windswept town named after Bick's family, Leslie graciously greets their Mexican-American driver, Angel Obregon, and Bick admonishes her not to be too kind to "those people." Bick's tough, cattle-driving sister Luz throws a party for the newlyweds and Leslie faints when she is served a plate of barbequed calves' heads. Determined to become a real Texan, however, Leslie rises early the next morning and takes the breakfast duties away from Luz, who looks upon Leslie as a rival to her position as head of the household. While Luz, Bick and Leslie are out driving cattle, Bick sends Leslie home with Jett Rink, a rough cowboy who is close to Luz, but clashes with Bick. On the way back to Bick's mansion, Leslie insists on stopping in Reata, where the poor Mexican laborers live. Leslie goes into one of the hovels and discovers that a mother, Mrs. Obregon, and her newborn, Angel III, are seriously ill. Returning home, Leslie learns that Luz has taken a serious fall while trying to break War Winds. After Luz dies, Leslie asks the doctor to go to the village to tend to the Obregons' sick baby, despite Bick's protests that their family physician should not tend to "those people." At the funeral, Bick, his lawyer and other friends tell Jett that Luz willed him a piece of land, but encourage him to instead accept a cash settlement twice the value of the property. Jett declines the cash, and insists on taking the plot of land which he calls "Little Reata." Soon Leslie gives birth to twins, Jordan III and Judy. As the years pass, Bick continues to argue with her over her work at the migrant labor camps, where she has hired a new, Mexican-American physician, Dr. Guerra, to help improve living conditions. Leslie gives birth to another girl, whom they name Luz, and at the twins' fourth birthday party, Bick, who clearly favors his son, insists on forcing his frightened heir to ride a new pony. Bick's disappointment at Jordan's tears and Leslie's admonishment is further heightened when little Angel III skillfully rides the pony back to the corral. Uncle Bawley, Leslie's ally in her conflicts with Bick, tells her to continue rearing the children her way, as Bick knows no more about the job than his father. Realizing that their differences have caused too much friction in their marriage, Leslie decides to take the children for a long visit to Maryland. After a lonely Thanksgiving for both Bick and Leslie, Bick unexpectedly shows up at the wedding of Leslie's younger sister Lacey, who is marrying David. Bick takes Leslie back to Reata after she admits that she cannot change and he says Texans like vinegar with their greens. Meanwhile, Jett, who has found oil on Little Reata, becomes wealthy. His success enrages Bick, who forces Jett to stop using the name Reata, and the new company, Jettexas, becomes a multi-million dollar company. Years later, as the children approach adulthood, Judy wishes to go to college at Texas Tech to study animal husbandry, although Leslie wants her to go finishing school in Switzerland. Jordan, whom Bick has tried to groom since birth to be the heir to Reata, decides to become a doctor. At Christmas, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Judy elopes with her sweetheart, Bob Dace, who has just been drafted. Angel Obregon brings Angel III to visit, proudly showing off his son's new soldier's uniform, and Jordan, who has received an over-sized cowboy hat from his father, meets Juana, a young nurse in training who has accompanied Dr. Guerra to the festivities. That afternoon, Bick gets drunk on eggnog, and tries to convince Jordan, and then Bob and Judy, to take the ranch when he retires, but they want to start a small ranch of their own. Jett, not realizing that it is Christmas, shows up and convinces Bick to allow an oil well to be drilled on Reata. After the war, all of the local ranchers, including Bick and Leslie, have become oil rich. At a pool party to celebrate the end of World War II, Leslie expresses disgust that the Texas oil barons are receiving a 27.5% tax exemption from the government. Jordan, who has just married Juana in a private, Mexican-Catholic ceremony, then announces his wedding, much to his father's anger. A short time later, Angel III is brought home in a casket and, at the funeral, after the attending soldiers give Angel's father the American flag in honor of his son's bravery, Bick gives the grieving Obregons a Texas flag from his own collection. Soon Judy and Bob, and Juana and Jordan have their first babies, both boys. Jett, now called "Mr. Texas," plans to have a huge celebration to commemorate the opening of his new airport and hotel in Hermosa, Texas. Luz, who has a crush on Jett, can think of nothing else, and Bick finally decides to attend "like the best of 'em," and even buys his own airplane to arrive in style. At a celebratory parade, Bick and Leslie are distressed to discover Luz riding a float as "Queen of the Parade." Later, in the hotel's quiet bar, Jett ignores his guests, gets drunk and proposes to Luz, who demurely declines, then leaves. At a cocktail party in the Benedict suite, Jordan and Juana arrive with their baby. When Juana goes to the hotel beauty salon to get her hair done for the banquet, they refuse service because they have orders from Jett not to do business with "her people." Jordan grows furious and breaks the salon's mirror. A short time later, Jett, almost stumbling from drunkenness, arrives late at the banquet, at which he is to give a speech. As he walks up to the podium, Jordan confronts him and the two exchange punches, until Jordan is carried out nearly unconscious. Bick then takes Jett into a store room to give him a thrashing, but Jett is so drunk that he cannot defend himself. After knocking down rows of wine racks, a disgusted Bick, his entire family and their close friends leave the banquet room. Jett finally arrives at his place on the dais and promptly passes out. Back in their suite, when Bick refers to Juana as a "fine little gal," Jordan becomes angry and accuses him of being as bad as Jett and argues that Bick only fought "Mr. Texas" because Jordan had disgraced the Benedict name by losing the fight. Luz is upset and wants to go to Jett, but her parents refuse. Uncle Bawley, for whom Leslie has always had a soft spot, convinces her to let him take Luz to Jett. They find him drunkenly sobbing in an empty banquet room, rambling about his love for the beautiful Leslie. The next day, Bick sends the airplane back to Reata while he, Leslie, Luz, Juanna and the baby drive home. On the way, they stop at a roadside café where the waitress does not want to serve them because of Juana and the baby, but the owner acquiesces, realizing that Leslie and Bick are well-to-do. When an elderly Mexican husband and wife enter the café, however, the owner roughly tries to throw them out. Seeing this, Bick goes to their defense. Despite using his influence as "Bick Benedict," the owner refuses to change his mind and the two men engage in a brawl that ends in Bick's complete defeat. Back at Reata, Leslie reveals that Luz has forgotten about Jett and gone to Hollywood to become an actress. As she and Bick relax while babysitting their two grandsons, one white and one brown, Bick says that his grandson looks like a "wetback," but that men will just have to get over it. When he reflects that he is a failure, Leslie says that she realized what a great man he was when she saw him lying on the floor of the café after fighting for the rights of the downtrodden. The couple, finally content, gaze at the two boys, whose faces represent the future of Texas. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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