Giant

Saturdays never are. One of my projects was to clean up the computer corner, the design of which can only be described as Abandoned Landfill with a touch of Early Cave Dweller. I made a small start: one can see 20% of the oak surface.

Laundry is moving right along. I’ve done one load of towels, darks are in the washer. The blanket for the Oct 8 Buddy Walk is nearing the bordering process, I ran one errand, colored my hair, snacked, and am in the middle of Giant. That’s what I wanted to talk about.

Giant, 1956, filmed partially in Texas, starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Dennis Hopper, Chill Wills , and presenting Caroll Baker. What you may not know is that James Dean, the first official role model for cool,

was killed in a stupid car crash 3 weeks before filming was completed. He had been ordered not to get behind the wheel of his hot car during the filming as it was well known how he liked to drink and drive fast. As I understand it, he was doing neither. Someone ran a stop sign.

Giant is not a love story.  As the scene unfolds, 1920-something, we see the Texas rancher, Bick Benedict (Rock) in Massachusetts looking at a horse to buy from Leslie’s (Liz) father. They fall in love, (Bick and Leslie, not Bick and her father), marry, and go back to the ranch where she immediately butts heads with the sister-in-law and befriends the Mexican servants much to Bick’s chagrin. The story is about prejudice, the setting being Texas instead of Birmingham, AL. The lesson is coincidentally on the front edge of the civil rights movement, whether that was the author’s or producers’ intention, I don’t know.

Another 1950’s story of prejudice was South Pacific, a Rogers and Hammerstein story of bias against Polynesians during WWII.

In Giant, what makes it special is the attention to detail.  The interior scenes were constructed sets on a studio lot. All the exterior filming was in Texas.  The false front of the house and porch were one frame away from the neighboring ranch house, telephone poles and TV antenna.  The dust is real, the expansive horizon was real, and the herdin’, the ropin’ and the brandin’ was real, done by locals, not actors. The cast and crew flew in and camped for over two months in the little Texas town, went to their theatre, ate in their restaurant, and included them in scenes such as the barbeque where Liz faints beautifully at the sight of cow brains plopped on her plate.

The story continues through three decades. They deal with a son who doesn’t want to herd cows and hates horses, a world war, oil men dotting the land with derricks, and their former hired hand, Jett Rink (Dean) becoming one of the richest, drunkest, and smarmiest oilmen Texas ever saw who dares to court the affections of the easily impressed Benedict daughter.

All of this saga is done without nudity, blood, or profanity. It’s beautifully filmed, acted, and directed, all the components that make a best selling novel a movie epic, and a double-disker.

I still like it. It has survived the test of time and change. The epics and sagas are gone. They’ve been replaced with flying and/or exploding cars, chases, blood everywhere, too much skin, extreme profanity, and less talent. There are many exceptions to this statement, Lord of the Rings trilogy for one, but sadly, few of the exceptions are as exceptional as the grandeur of down to earth, real life movies like Giant.

All ends well, another feature that is not a guarantee in today’s productions. I have to focus on the fight scene in the diner — Rock Hudson, the sex symbol of the 50’s, defeated, salad on his head, fade to the last scene in which the old fogie grandparents are babysitting the two toddlers, one dark skinned with black eyes, one blond and blue-eyed. The dialog in that scene is not as politically correct as it would be if it were remade today. Neither is it bad. That’s another thing that adds to Giant’s reality factor. People could deal with the reality of life and not be offended literally all…. the ….time.

Rent it. Buy it. Borrow it. Just find a way to see it. You won’t regret it.

And that, my patient reader, is my unplanned Saturday afternoon.

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