Greatest Film Scenes
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Giant (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

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Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Giant (1956)

In Best Director-winning George Stevens' sprawling, grandiose and iconic western epic and drama - it was based on the celebrated Edna Ferber novel, and told about two generations of a wealthy American cattle ranching family in Texas spanning a twenty-five year period. They clashed over money, property, class differences, and racism. The film was a well-meaning, but often misguided effort that had confusing and mixed messages about male superiority, the exploitation of Mexican workers, and racial equality (for both blacks in the Maryland sequences, and Hispanics in the Texas sequences).

The film, mostly shot on location in Marfa, TX, received only one Oscar out of its 10 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, two Best Actor nominations (for Rock Hudson and James Dean), Best Supporting Actress (McCambridge), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Color Art Direction/Set Decoration, Best Color Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Music Score (Dimitri Tiomkin)) - Stevens won the Best Director Oscar. It was particularly poignant as the last (and 2nd posthumous Oscar-nominated) performance of James Dean's tragically short career.

  • in the film's opening set in the 1920s, wealthy Stetson-hatted Texas rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict Jr. (Rock Hudson) rode by steam locomotive through Maryland; the purpose of his trip to Ardmore, MD was to purchase a prized but spirited black stallion named "War Winds" for $10,000 dollars; he was picked up in an open convertible by socially-prominent and aristocratic Dr. Horace Lynnton (Paul Fix)
  • the tall Texan met Lynnton's privileged, socialite-belle daughter Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor) who was engaged to future son-in-law Englishman Sir David Karfrey (Rod Taylor); the towering, land-owning bachelor Bick became more personally acquainted with the curious and romantically-interested Leslie, and invited her to see "his country" (of Reata) in Texas; in just two days of courtship, he had become enraptured by her beauty, attractiveness, inquisitive and educated nature, and bold independence; as it turned out, Bick bought the horse - and also captured Leslie's heart
  • the newlyweds (honeymooners) took a train to arrive back in Texas at Bick's sprawling Benedict Texas ranch (known as "Reata") - an immense 595,000 acres in total; it was a majestic, idyllic entrance as Bick drove Leslie from the station through the outer gates of Reata to view the immense, isolated but imposing three-story Victorian home in the distance, surrounded by grazing cattle
  • upon arriving home, they briefly met Bick's older, raw, cattle-driving spinster-sister Luz Benedict (Mercedes McCambridge), who managed the ranch; she was immediately stern and unwelcoming because her beloved brother had betrayed her and brought home a blue-blooded outsider from the East; she complained that Bick's marriage and honeymoon had kept him away during spring round-up; the very manly Luz had been in charge of the ranch-hands in Bick's absence
  • Bick also exchanged a few harsh words with lowly, uneducated ranch-hand cowboy Jett Rink (James Dean); the laconic and ornery Jett and Bick often bickered with each other, according to Luz; Jett kow-towed to the stoic Bick now that he had returned, and knew he would no longer be taking orders from Luz; the sullen, almost-inarticulate cowboy muttered to himself about how he despised Bick (and the entire Benedict family) for perceived arrogance and wealth
  • the next day, Luz held a local, old-fashioned BBQ party for the newlyweds; as the sole remaining spinster in the area, Luz now had a reputation for being butch: (Adarene Clinch (Mary Ann Edwards): "Aw, Luz, why everybody in the county knows you'd rather herd cattle than make love!" Luz: "Well, there's one thing you gotta say for cattle: You put your brand on one of them, you're gonna know where it's at!")
At an Outdoor BBQ at the Texas Ranch

'Bick' Benedict (Rock Hudson) and Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor)

Luz Benedict (Mercedes McCambridge)

Jett Rink (James Dean)
  • Jett lingered and remained on the outskirts of the BBQ as an outcast near an open black convertible (a 1921 Rolls Royce); when the BBQ was ready to be served, Jett sat back calmly in the rear seat of the convertible (with his booted feet up) in an iconic pose
  • by the next morning, Leslie refused to be intimidated by her rival incumbent Luz, and was determined to become a real Texan, although that meant a major stand-off with the upstaged Luz, in order to establish herself as the new ranch matriarch

Bick and Leslie Watching Herd

Leslie With Jett

Luz on War Winds Before Her Death
  • during round-up, stubborn-headed Luz insisted on riding Leslie's black thoroughbred stallion War Winds; as she rode, she continued to deliberately spur the animal's flanks to enrage and tame him, and was bucked from the horse (off-screen), causing a concussion; shortly later, she tragically passed away from possible brain hemorrhaging; Bick also euthanized War Winds due to its broken leg; it was clear that Leslie would now be in full control of the domestic life of the ranch
  • after Luz's death, as a dying sentiment, she had bequested a little piece of land (part of Reata) to resentful, lowly ranch hand Jett; Bick offered to acquire the willed Reata land from Jett for twice its true value, to keep it in the Benedict family, but Jett declined the offer; he visited his property where he climbed the tower of a wooden windmill to survey his property; he sat and looked out at his new possession ("Little Reata") - as Dimitri Tiomkin's magnificent score boomed
  • Leslie became very concerned about the continuing scandal of the migrant camp that needed reform (and better medical care), but it threatened to split the marital harmony between her and Bick
  • the independent-minded Leslie regularly expressed her feminist attitudes, her views on male supremacy, her criticisms of the unequal treatment of poor Hispanic families, and her opinions about Texas' political history; Leslie engaged in a fierce quarrel with Bick's good-old-buddies about her exclusion from their misogynistic, condescending discussion; Leslie exploded in a rage, calling them "cave-men"; soon after, Bick established his male supremacy and she apologized, and after a night of love-making, he was able to reassert his authority over every aspect of Reata (including her)

Leslie Calling the Men "Cave-Men"

Leslie's News That She Was Pregnant

The Growing Benedict Family

Young Jordy Upset Over Being Forced to Ride a Pony

Bick Forcing Jordy to Ride With Him

Bick Returning to Maryland to Reconcile with Leslie
  • shortly later, Leslie and Bick became parents with two newborn fraternal twins, and then had another daughter named after Luz; the pushy Bick insisted on the manly tradition of governing his property and its people, with errant ideas about child-rearing, and he often disputed with Leslie over the future careers of the Benedict children; the couple spoke about the distance and frictions growing between them (due to Bick's insensitivity to her efforts at social reform and his insensitive, misogynistic tendencies, especially toward his non-manly son Jordy who was uncomforbale and upset when forced to ride a pony)
  • Leslie suggested temporarily separating from Bick by taking the three children back home to Maryland to cool things off between them; Bick surprised Leslie by returning to Maryland to humbly ask for her to return with him to Reata - although set in his ways, he promised to take her back just the way she was
  • meanwhile, Jett Rink realized he had struck oil on his own small piece of land (Little Reata); covered with the gushing liquid black gold, he drove onto the front lawn of Reata, and boastfully and defiantly made resentful statements to the Benedict family on the porch about how he would be richer than them - a long-standing fierce rivalry would commence: ("My well came in, Bick, ha, ha, ha....Everybody thought l had a duster. Y'all thought ol' Spindletop Burke and Burnett was all the oil there was, didn't ya? But l'm here to tell you it ain't, boy. lt's here. And there ain't a dang thing you gonna do about it. My well came in big, so big, Bick. And there's more down there, and there's bigger wells. l'm rich, Bick! l'm a rich one. l'm a rich boy. Me - l'm gonna have more money than you ever thought you could have. You and all the rest of you stinkin' sons of Benedicts")
  • Jett also inappropriately made a pass toward Leslie: ("My, you sure do look pretty, Miss Leslie. You always did look pretty. Just pretty now, and good enough to eat") - an altercation included a few punches exchanged between Bick and Jett (who exclaimed: "You're touchy, Bick. Touchy as an old cook"), before Jett drove off; Uncle Bawley (Chill Wills) remarked: "You should have shot that fella a long time ago. Now he's too rich to kill"
  • Jett became a nouveau-riche tycoon, and named his prosperous, new multi-million dollar organization the "JETEXAS COMPANY"; over the years, Jett aged from a young man to a mumbling outcast and dissolute drunkard (known as "Mr. Texas")
  • ultimately, Bick became discouraged that all of his efforts had been in vain to pass on Reata and its traditions to his heirs, especially to his favored twin boy Jordy III (Dennis Hopper as adult), who instead planned to first study at Harvard, and then go on to further schooling at Columbia for pre-med training
  • distraught that his children had all abandoned his plans to have them take over Reata, Bick reluctantly agreed with Jett in the 1940s to allow oil production and oil-well drilling on his land to help the war effort; cattle-ranching and oil drilling were seen to co-exist, and the oil-rich Bick was now a Texas oil baron as well as cattle rancher; another indication of changing ways was that Bick's son-heir Jordy married Hispanic nurse Juana Villalobos (Elsa Cárdenas) without his family present
  • meanwhile, Jett Rink had become incredibly rich and was spitefully dating the rebellious Benedict daughter Luz (24 year-old Carroll Baker), and semi-seriously proposed to her, but she laughed off his proposal
  • Jett's downfall came during a celebratory scene to commemorate the formal dedication and opening of his new airport and hotel in Hermosa, Texas; at the hotel complex, Jordy's wife Juana was denied service in the hair salon, due to racial discrimination (and Jett Rink's specific orders); as the banquet was commencing, an irate and incensed Jordy searched for Jett to confront him for the racial insult and bigotry; they entered into an unfair fight - Jordy was held back by Jett's goons-bodyguards and punched repeatedly until he was left almost unconscious and then dragged out
Jett Totally Drunk at Celebration - Bick Confronted Him: "You're all through!"
  • although Bick entered into the quarrel and also challenged Jett to a fight, he realized Jett was drunkenly incoherent and incapable of defending himself: ("You’re ain't even worth hittin'. Jett, you wanna know somethin' true? You’re all through"); Jett was so drunk that he was unable to deliver his prepared speech - he fell forward and passed out on top of the f dignitaries' front table after he was introduced to speak; the room was cleared and everyone prepared to return home
  • later in the empty banquet room, the lonely, self-pitying, self-destructive and pathetic Rink was still there - he was found drunkenly mumbling, sobbing, and rambling to an imaginary audience; the tragically-defeated figure began to speak about his unrequited, covetous love - not for Luz but for Leslie: ("Pretty Leslie. Wonderful, beautiful girl bride! Poor boy. Rich. Rich Mrs. Benedict. She's beautiful. Lovely. The woman a man wants. A woman a man has got to have, too!"); Jett stood up, but stumbled and toppled over the table, sending himself sprawling and crashing the entire set of front tables onto the banquet floor
  • the next day, Bick drove Leslie, Luz, and Juana (and her baby Little Jordy IV) toward home; they stopped at a roadside cafe-diner known as Sarge's Place, owned by bigoted cafe owner Sarge (Mickey Simpson); although Sarge made an exception to serve the racially-mixed, but well-to-do family of Benedicts, he indignantly refused to serve another elderly Latino couple while "The Yellow Rose of Texas" blared on the jukebox
  • in the memorable scene, the proud member of the ruling elite Bick confronted Sarge and the two commenced a brawling, bruising fist-fight; the often-racist, close-minded rancher Bick had finally proven to his equally-stubborn feminist wife, a champion for the rights of the downtrodden Mexicans, that he had evolved in his thinking and hadn't failed in life, although he actually lost the physical fight

Racist Cafe Owner Sarge (Mickey Simpson)

Bick's Fist-Fight with Bigoted Cafe Owner Sarge

Bick Defeated in the Physical Fight
  • back at Reata as the film concluded, Leslie considered their own family legacy a success, and how she was newly proud and respectful of Bick's enlightened understanding of racial differences - they now had two multi-racial grandsons (one Caucasian and one Hispanic)

Texas Rancher Jordan "Bick" Benedict Jr. (Rock Hudson)

Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor) on Stallion Named 'War Winds'

(l to r): Leslie's Father Horace (Paul Fix), Leslie, and Fiancee Sir David Karfrey (Rod Taylor)

The Newlyweds' Arrival at the Sprawling Benedict Ranch (Reata) in Texas

Jett Rink Watching the Newlyweds

Four Main Characters

Jett Atop Windmill Tower Above His "Little Reata" Land

Discovery of Oil on Jett Rink's Land

Rink Covered in Crude Oil

Jett's Inappropriate Behavior Toward Leslie on the Porch of Reata

Jett's Oil-Well Empire (JETEXAS COMPANY)

Jordy (Dennis Hopper) with Future Hispanic Wife Juana (Elsa Cárdenas)

Reata Now With a Pool and Tennis Courts

Aging Bick and Leslie

Rich Jett Rink

Luz Benedict (Carroll Baker)

Jett Drunk Before Being Introduced to Speak - and Falling Face Forward and Passing Out

Later, Drunken Jett Alone in Hotel Banquet Room After Celebration Was Cancelled


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