Giant (1956) was an epic. It was one of the most expensive movies that had been made at the time and had three big names to go along with it: Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean.
The movie is like three hours long so I’ll spare you an in depth description. It basically tells the story of Leslie (Taylor) and Jordan (Hudson) Benedict and the ups and downs of their life in Texas throughout the years as newlyweds, parents, and then grandparents. James Dean plays Jett Rink, a ranch hand, who strikes oil and becomes one of the richest men in Texas. He’s also in love with Leslie for the whole entire film.
This movie does deal with some deep issues, specifically racism. A lot of the characters, mainly the ones that originate from Texas, harbor a lot of prejudice towards Mexicans. The tension of the subject comes to a head when Jordan and Leslie’s son marries a Mexican woman. The issue has a lot to do with Hudson’s character and the changes that he has to go through in order to swallow his pride and accept the inevitable changes that will happen in life. It’s Elizabeth Taylor’s character, Leslie that brings everybody together, regardless of the color of their skin.
The make up in this movie was unique because they made young actors look like they were older. I thought that they did a great job with the make up (let’s not forget that this movie is from 1956). Was it unusual in movies to make young actors look older at this point in time?
Rock Hudson gave a really strong performance as Jordan Benedict. He definitely did rile me up the majority of the time. I was torn between completely hating his character for the ridiculous things he would do and then praising him when he finally got things right.
Elizabeth Taylor, who was as beautiful as ever (seriously, I wish I looked like her), did a great job as well. Leslie was a very strong character who endures a lot during the film (because her husband is too prideful and her kids are stressful and a man she doesn’t love is in love with her) and Taylor carries her all the way through.
Jett Rink, however, is probably Dean’s finest performance. This is a smaller role than his previous films East of Eden (1955) and Rebel Without A Cause (1955). However, anytime he is on the screen, you cannot take your eyes off of him. Jett is a man who starts with nothing, and ends up with everything… except for the thing he actually wants (which is Leslie). He plays a broken man who turns to alcohol for comfort. Even though he can have anything he wants, he is alone, rendering him forever unfulfilled.
Seeing his performance in Giant, it really makes me sad to know that we will never see another great performance from James Dean. Who knows how much more he would’ve had to offer us!
However, his legacy remains in the three films that he left behind.
His is infinite. He will never be forgotten.