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By Patrick Samuel • February 8th, 2015
Static Mass Rating: 5/5GIANT (MOVIE)
Warner Bros.

Original release: October 10th, 1956
Running time: 201 minutes

Director: George Stevens
Writers: Fred Guiol, Ivan Moffat, Edna Ferber

Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo


When we think of oil it’s usually with an idea of its rising prices, and maybe a little bit about our dependence on it, but what about how the oil industry began? What’s interesting to look back on is those early days when America was still in its infancy and those buying up land found themselves hitting the jackpot when they struck oil. It’s in these stories we see how folks would become tycoons and how their families would grow to become empires that would rule the world; families such as the Rockefellers, who still maintain the #1 spot in America’s Top Families after almost 100 years.

While Giant may not be the story of the Rockefellers, the Harkness Family, the Whitney Family or the Archbold Family who all derived their wealth from Standard Oil, it’s the story of a similar family who would strike oil, and with its smoldering melodrama and stellar cast, it’s a film of epic proportions based on Edna Ferber’s novel of the same name.

At the start we meet Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who travels from Texas to buy a horse in Maryland to put out to stud. It’s there he meets socialite Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor) and the pair fall in love and soon marry. Bick takes his new bride back home to meet his wealthy ranching family and she immediately clashes with her husband’s sister Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) who runs the household. Leslie gets a warmer reception from Jett Rink (James Dean), one of Luz’s workers. Jett, impossibly handsome, hopes to one day make his own fortune, but right now he’s dirt poor and doesn’t look like he has even a penny to his name.


All of that changes when Luz dies after she’s thrown from Leslie’s favorite horse, the same one Bick bought when they met. She leaves Jett a plot of land on the Benedict ranch in her will and while Bick does his best to buy it back from him, he decides to make it his home and christens it “Little Reata”. We see time passing and Leslie and Bick starting a family. Meanwhile Jett, in one of the film’s most memorable scenes, discovers there’s oil on his land after Leslie visits him and her footprint on the ground reveals traces of it seeping through.

It’s an incredible scene. Standing on the rig, the pump suddenly blows and the black gold gushes hundreds of feet in the air. As Jett looks up, the oil starts to rain down on him, drenching his clothes as he stands there with closed eyes and outstretched arms, as if he’s experiencing a miracle. The camera pulls back and we see him spinning around with glee. Still drenched in oil, Jett drives to the Benedict front yard to tell the family and their guests that he’ll be richer than them.

As more years pass and WWII approaches, Jett’s oil drilling company prospers and we see Bick continuing to be a cattle rancher like his forefathers, despite several offers to drill for oil on Reata. With Leslie and Bick’s children, Jordy (Dennis Hopper), Judy (Fran Bennett), and Luz II Giant (Carroll Baker), now grown up, this younger generation go on to encounter more conflicts and create a few more of their own. Much of this forms the remainder half of Giant where the story makes some surprising turns, not least of all giving us our one and only chance to see the iconic and forever youthful James Dean as a middle aged man.

Combing racial tensions with Jordy’s Mexican-American wife, Juana (Elsa Cárdenas), Judy wanting to study animal husbandry at Texas Tech instead of finishing school in Switzerland like her mother wants her to, and Luz II starting an affair with the now middle-aged Jett, the melodrama of Giant simmers and reaches boiling point at a lavish dinner party in Jett’s honour, hosted at his hotel. It’s here we see the Benedict-Rink rivalry coming to a head.

While Giant can be described as a film about power, wealth, conflict and social change, it’s overall theme can be summarized as family that eventually arrives at a point where they understand what it means to live together as one, despite all their differences. This much is clear when Leslie and Bick watch their multiracial group of grandchildren and realise how far they’ve come since the day of Bick’s wealthy forbears.

As the last of the three feature length films we got to see James Dean playing in, Giant contains another of his show-stealing performances. From the early scenes where he nervously invites Leslie into his cabin to have tea with him, to later one when he meets with Bick and the lawyers who try to buy the land back from and towards the end when he’s nothing but an old drunk, we get to see a unique and gifted actor at work. With Steven’s direction, the film is a wonderful experience that can be enjoyed over and over again while discovering something new each and every time, all while giving us a little bit of insight into what it might’ve been like for those early American oil dynasties.


Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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