Edna Ferber’s novel comes to life in the film Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Director George Stevens who also worked with Miss Taylor in A Place in the Sun took the cast to Marfa, Texas to shoot the movie, which also helped show the vastness (and flatness) of the Texas landscape.
Made in 1956, Giant tells the story of Jordan ‘Bick’ Benedict Jr., a wealthy Texas rancher, played with the appropriate amount of swagger by Rock Hudson. Bick goes to Maryland to pick up a horse for his ranch and meets the stunningly beautiful Leslie Litton. How could he help but to fall head over heels in love. They marry and Bick brings Leslie back to Texas, where she experiences total culture shock. It is quite a contrast to go from the beautiful, green rolling hills of Maryland to hot, dusty Reata. Leslie is also not used to the barbecuing whole cows, the oppressive heat and the ill-treatment of Mexicans. The film spans more than 30 years, through the discovery of oil by Jett Rink (James Dean) and how that impact Bick and Leslie’s family.
Elizabeth Taylor shines as high-spirited, Leslie Benedict. She starts out as an outspoken schoolgirl who insults Bick about Texas history. (Texans are very touchy about the “this used to belong to Mexico thing” ) She goes from the cultured daughter of a Northern horse-breeder to the wife of a macho Texas cattleman who believed that women were like pretty little vases — to be seen, displayed, but not heard. When she wants to join in a conversation with the men about politics she is sent away to ‘sit with the ladies and be good‘.
“This is men’s stuff. You wouldn’t be interested. No don’t you go worrying your pretty little head about this”. –Rock Husdon
You mean my pretty empty head!“–Leslie
After visiting a Mexican family’s home to check on a sick child, she is reprimanded for interfering with ‘those people’. You can see the fire in Elizabeth’s eyes when Bick tries to tame her. Over their 25 year marriage, Bick tries to tame Leslie, like one of his horses, but he picked the wrong girl!
I love the scenes with Liz and James. The two of them are very comfortable with each other and it allows you to see more of the inner workings of their characters. While Jett is in love with Leslie, she enjoys their friendship.
James Dean’s portrayal as the ranch hand turned oilman is so understated and brilliant, it is not hard to understand why he earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as Jett Rink. Dean’s performance and the images of him sitting in the back seat of that car are iconic.
Elizabeth Taylor is perfect for the part of Leslie Benedict. Leslie was not a woman who was willing to be defined by her beauty , but a woman who had a mind of her own and was willing to express herself when needed. Elizabeth Taylor lived her life that way in movies like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Taming of The Shrew (1967), Elizabeth Taylor embodied the beautiful high-spirited woman who could handle her own business. It didn’t mean that she didn’t need or want love, but she didn’t need a man to tell her what to do. She was her own woman. A GIANT of a woman!
Watch GIANT on NetFlix on demand. This post is part of the LAMB Acting School Series about the films of Elizabeth Taylor. Each month the LAMB (Large Association of Movie Bloggers) focuses on the careers of a specific actor, director or filmmaker.
See My Other Posts Related To Elizabeth Taylor
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Guest Post on The Lingerie Addict)