The Romanian culture portal filme-carti.ro dedicates an homage week series to Elizabeth Taylor. I contributed with an article about one of the first important films of Taylor – ‘Giant’. The Romanian version of this chronicle can be read at http://filme-carti.ro/filme/giant-1956-saptamana-elizabeth-taylor-9180/.

Made in the mid 50s ‘Giant’ is a historical and social drama that covers a few decades and two generations in the life of a wealthy Texan family  in the first half of the previous century, in a period of social and economic transformation of Texas and the United States. The genre was not really new, it was quite popular in the 30s and had reached its artistic and popularity pick with  ‘Gone with the Wind’. In a way the theme anticipated the TV series  ‘Dallas’ which would become a hit lately and deals with the same social media, starting about where ‘Giant’ ends.  More than three hours of screening time did not seem to intimidate neither the producers nor the viewers of the time, the film became for about two decades the biggest blockbuster of the Warner studios, being displaced only in the 70s by the powers of ‘Superman’. The cast includes a Rock Hudson in best shape and maturity, an Elizabeth Taylor strikingly beautiful but with an artistic sensitivity fully exposed for the first time, and a James Dean at his third and last leading rile, the fatal accident cutting of his career and life before the film premiered. The director is George Stevens, and interesting and almost forgotten personalty, who was in 1945 one of the first people to have filmed the horrors of the concentration and extermination camp of the Holocaust in Europe, then brought to screen in 1959 ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ finishing his career in 1970 with a film that brought together Elizabeth Taylor and Warren Beatty in ‘The Only Game in Town’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w2x6AT4mr3o

(video source IAmOnlyLove)

The story starts with the falling in love of the Texan Jordan Benedict (Rock Hudson) with the rich Yankee ranch-owner daughter Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) and the leaving of the couple for Texas where Benedict is a huge ranch owner. One of the workers at the Benedict ranch is Jett Rink (James Dean) who inherits a small piece of land from Jordan’s sister, which he refuses to sell to his rich neighbor and former employer. When oil strikes just on that small piece of land Jett becomes rich overnight, the wealth and social status relation swapping, as Jett is faster in adapting to the new economy based on oil rather than on growing cattle. The story develops with the birth, growth and coming of age of a new generation, following the personal but also the social conflicts related to the transition in economy but also in way of life. A secondary theme relates to racial prejudice with a critical look at the relations between white Texans and the Mexican minority subordinated from an economic and social point of view, but paying the ultimate price when World War II breaks.

(video source JMoneyYourHoney)

The rich epic allows director George Stevens and the lead actors a careful and detailed development of the characters. I did a fascinating exercise looking at the actors in historical perspective. All were when the movie was made at the pick of their artistic capacities and physical beauty. Make-up and their talent helped them growing old in the movie and reaching an age that Hudson and Taylor reached in real life, but not Dean.  Results differ. Rock Hudson matures and gets old in ‘Giant’ with the same nobility and style he did mature before being hit by AIDS in the last years of his life. Elizabeth Taylor gets old in the film with a dignity and vibration that could not be seen in her public appearances in the 70s or 80s when the excesses and extravagances of her style of life destroyed her physically leaving only her beautiful eyes to continue to fascinate. James Dean makes what was maybe the most interesting role in the film and the most complex in his painfully short career. We cannot know for sure how Dean would have looked like at older age, but we can imagine his physiognomy similar to the one here minus the negative character exaggeration. Another interesting appearance is the young Denis Hopper, the son of Hudson and Taylor in the film, in his first important role, the first in a series of low self-confidence characters role.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dzi0gyCDDw

(video source CnetProductions2)

The film can be seen on youTube  starting from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dzi0gyCDDw.