Sixty-five years ago today, the film Giant premiered in New York City. Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean and Carroll Baker all at the height of their beauty in a film of Edna Ferber’s novel. There really is no way to go wrong. It is absolutely a gift to watch. It was also Dean’s last film, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award. You should watch this movie.
Directed by: George Stevens
Screenplay by: Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat
Based on: Giant 1952 novel by Edna Ferber
Produced by: George Stevens and Henry Ginsberg
Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper, Elsa Cárdenas, and Earl Holliman
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Edited by: William Hornbeck, Phil Anderson, and Fred Bohanan
Music by: Dimitri Tiomkin
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Release date: October 10, 1956 (New York City), November 24, 1956 (United States)
Running time: 197 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $5.4 million
Box office: $39 million
Academy Award Best Director – George Stevens
Golden Globe Most Promising Female Newcomer – Carroll Baker
Wealthy Texas rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict Jr. travels to Maryland on a horse-buying trip. He meets socialite Leslie Lynnton, who quickly ends a budding relationship with a British diplomat. After a whirlwind romance, Leslie and Bick marry and return to the Benedicts’ Texas cattle ranch, Reata. Leslie has difficulty adjusting to her new life. Bick’s older sister, Luz, runs the household and resents Leslie’s intrusion. Leslie soon learns that she, like the other women, is expected to be subservient in the male-dominated Texas culture. Jett Rink, a ranch hand, becomes infatuated with Leslie. When Jett drives her around the county, Leslie observes the Mexican workers’ terrible living conditions. She presses Bick to help improve their situation.
Luz is killed while riding Leslie’s horse, War Winds, being bucked off after digging in her spurs as a hostile act towards Leslie. Luz leaves a small piece of Benedict land to Jett. Bick, who despises Jett, offers to buy the property at twice its value, but Jett refuses to sell and names his land ‘Little Reata’.
Leslie and Bick have twins, Jordan III (“Jordy”) and Judy and later have another daughter, Luz II. Bick continually favors his young son and pushes him into masculine pursuits, which the youngster resists. The marriage becomes strained, and Leslie takes the children to her parents for an extended visit. Bick goes to Maryland, and he and Leslie reconcile and return to Texas.
Jett continues working his land, eventually striking oil. Covered in crude, he drives to the Benedict house and proclaims he will be richer than them. Jett makes a pass at Leslie, leading to a brief fistfight with Bick before he drives off. Jett prospers over the years. He tries to persuade Bick to let him drill for oil on Reata. Bick, determined to preserve his family’s cattle ranching legacy, refuses.
Years later, tensions arise regarding the now-grown Benedict children. Bick intends that Jordy will succeed him and run the ranch, but Jordy wants to become a doctor. Leslie plans for Judy to attend finishing school in Switzerland, but she wants to study animal husbandry at Texas Tech. Each sibling successfully convinces one parent to persuade the other to allow them to pursue their own goals.
At the family Christmas party, Bick wants Judy’s new husband, Bob Dace, to work on the ranch after he returns from World War II. Dace declines, saying he and Judy want to build their own life. Jett persuades Bick to allow oil drilling on his land. Realizing that his children will not take over the ranch when he retires, Bick agrees. Once oil production starts on the ranch, the Benedicts grow wealthier and more powerful.
The Benedict–Rink rivalry reaches a head when the Benedicts discover that Luz II has been having a secret romantic relationship with the much older Jett. At his Austin hotel, Jett hosts a huge party in his own honor. The Benedicts are guests, but Jett will not allow staff to serve Jordy’s Mexican wife, Juana. Enraged, Jordy starts and loses a fight with Jett, who then has Jordy thrown out. Bick challenges Jett, but seeing that the drunken Jett is in no state to defend himself, he and the other Benedicts leave. Jett staggers into the banquet hall and sits in the seat of honor. Luz II hears the slumped over Jett bemoaning his unrequited love for Leslie and leaves heartbroken; Jett topples over in a stupor and falls onto the floor.
Driving home the next day, the Benedicts stop at a diner. A sign at the counter states, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone,” meaning ethnic minorities are unwelcome. Sarge, the racist owner, insults Juana and her and Jordy’s young son. When Sarge ejects a Mexican family from the diner, Bick says to leave them alone. Bick fights Sarge, who beats him and the tosses the sign onto Bick. Back at Reata, Bick laments failing to preserve the Benedict family legacy. Leslie replies that, after the diner fight, he was her hero for the first time. She considers their own family legacy a success. They look at their two grandchildren, one Caucasian and one Hispanic.