Giant – George Stevens
After the disastrous banquet, Bick and Leslie drive Juana and her young son back to the ranch. They stop at a roadside restaurant where once again Juana is refused service. All the years of Bick’s prejudice and conservatism now intermingle with his sense of family pride and Leslie’s liberal influence. He engages in a wild brawl with the restaurant owner, amid the strains of the film’s popular ballad “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” The film ends back at Reata where Bick and Leslie compromise their old positions and look to their two grandchildren, one half Mexican, the other a blond toddler, to bring about needed changes and social justice.
A major criticism of Giant is that the film, like the Edna Ferber novel, has no focus, that it has combined melodramatic themes of family conflict, the alien outsider, and racial prejudice, without any true resolution. Another criticism is that the disdain for the crass, bigoted, materialistic society on the move is not balanced by a sensitive understanding of the individual moti¬vations of the people in that society. These points may be valid, or only partially so; but such deficiencies are redeemed by the strengths of George Stevens’ work. He is able to elicit more than competent performances from Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, especially before they are required to age. James Dean ended his career with a stunning characterization that received almost universal praise. Dean, Rock Hudson, and Mercedes Mc-Cambridge received Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress nominations, respectively. Other nominees from the film were Dmitri Tiomkin for the scoring; William Hornbeck, Philip W. Anderson, and Fred Bohanen for film editing; Ralph S. Hurst for art and set decoration; Moss Mabry and Marjorie Best for costume design; and Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat for the screenplay.
Despite its faulty plot, George Stevens is able to bring to this film a visual sweep, careful attention to sound, and many striking small touches. Examples of Stevens’ sensitive direction include the shot of the drunken Jett walking to the dais at his banquet, the beautifully framed long shot of the horse that has just thrown Luz on her return to Reata, and the warm pillow-talk conversations between Bick and Leslie. For his efforts in delineating a sensitive landscape of the human condition, Stevens the producer received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture and won the Best Director Award for 1956.