Giant (1956)

giant_6Starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Judith Evelyn, Earl Holliman, Robert Nichols

Directed by George Stevens

Expectations: Low.

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Giant is a Texas-themed soap opera about a cattle rancher named Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) who marries a Virginian girl named Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) while he’s in town buying a horse from Leslie’s father. When they return as husband and wife to Bick’s ranch Reata, Leslie doesn’t quite fit in with all the Texas bigots. This, surprisingly, becomes an overarching theme of the film, but you’ve gotta sit through a whole lot of Texas-sized movie before it ever pays off. And — spoiler alert — even that payoff is less satisfying than I’d have liked it to be. In a film this long (201 minutes!), is it too much to ask that we actually build toward something worth waiting for? I guess if I was a hard-hearted racist jerk, it’d take almost 3½ hours to get me to understand why the film ends as it does, but I was already on-board right from the get-go.

What’s strange about the length of Giant is that it’s an epic unconcerned with being epic. There are moments when it slips into epic mode, but for the most part it’s a fairly straightforward chronicle of 30–40 years in the Benedict family’s lives. So why is it as long as it is? The answer lies within the familial relationships of the Benedict family. Allowed extra space to breathe, Giant presents more nuanced and layered relationships than are usually seen in films — especially one from the ’50s. But even with its extended length, it still feels like it’s breezing through the years and could have easily been longer if it wanted to be.

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Way Out West (1937)

Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Sharon Lynn, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence, Stanley Fields, Vivien Oakland, The Avalon Boys, Chill Wills

Directed by James W. Horne

Expectations: One of my most treasured films as a child. Let’s see how it holds up.


As expected, I still love this movie unconditionally. Growing up we didn’t have cable TV most of the time, so our small VHS collection was always getting played and re-played. Way Out West was one of the first tapes we owned and it quickly became one of the most watched as well, with good reason. Even though it was a colorized version, the power of the duo’s comedy shone through, and later when I knew it was originally black and white I’d turn down the color and watch it as intended. The film was released on April 16, 1937, just recently celebrating its 75th birthday, but not a shred of the humor or the charm has worn off of this gem. Clearly, there’s some nostalgia associated with the movie for me, so your mileage may vary if you’ve never seen it, but for me this is truly one of the best classic comedy films of all time.

Stan and Ollie play a couple of guys entrusted to bring a deed for a gold mine to a resident of Brushwood Gulch. Things go wrong in only ways that Laurel and Hardy can manage, and that’s where Way Out West is best. My favorite scene has always been the chase scene inside of James Finlayson’s bedroom, as Laurel, Hardy, Finlayson and Sharon Lynn all fight and scramble over each other to acquire the deed. It’s hilarious and still managed to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it a multitude of times. There’s even a small bit of wirework in one small moment that raises the level of incredulity and hysterics to new heights.

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