For, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015

“Giant” (1956) is most notable as James Dean’s third and final starring role, but it’s also an excellent drama that spans several decades as it tells the story of a Texas oil tycoon (Rock Hudson) and his wife (Elizabeth Taylor), and their handyman (Dean), who eventually strikes oil himself and gives the family he worked for some competition.

This is very much a modern-day Western (as opposed to a 19th century Old West yarn). The film begins in 1920 with Hudson leaving his Texas ranch to visit Maryland, where he is purchasing a horse. There he meets Taylor and woos her away from Rod Taylor (in an early pre-stardom role).

After their marriage, they head to the family ranch in Texas, where Taylor learns to her chagrin that Hudson’s sister (Mercedes McCambridge) runs the house. So she has to deal with sis as much as the culture shock that comes with moving from the sophisticated East to the barely-tamed West. She is especially appalled by the living conditions of the Mexican workers who reside nearby.

As years pass, soap-opera events conspire to give Dean his own plot of land on the ranch, so he begins drilling and eventually makes a strike and finds himself filthy rich (literally, as he announces his good fortune to Hudson and Taylor while still covered with crude).


  Rock Hudson is startled by oil-slathered James Dean in 'Giant.'

And, as you might suspect, Dean also has eyes for Taylor.

Co-stars include Carroll Baker and Dennis Hopper as Hudson and Taylor’s children (when they reach adulthood) and there are subplots that provide Jane Withers, Chill Wills, and especially Sal Mineo, with some very story threads.

The film is based on Edna Ferber’s famous novel and directed by George Stevens (“A Place in the Sun,” “Shane,” “The Diary of Anne Frank”), and earned 10 Oscar nominations. Nominees included James Dean and Rock Hudson, both up for Best Actor (Dean posthumously), Mercedes McCambridge as Best Supporting Actress, as well as nominations for the script, art direction, costume design, editing and musical score (Dimitri Tiomkin).


                 Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, 'Giant'

“Giant” was also up for Best Picture — but the only winner was Stevens as Best Director. (The Best Picture award went to “Around the World in 80 Days.”)

Like the state it glorifies, “Giant” is a big movie and it must be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated. And now’s your chance as it will play on Sunday, Feb. 15, at 2 p.m., and on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 2 and 7 p.m., as part of Cinemark Theatres’ latest classic-movies cycle.