Tag Archives: george stevens

XL Popcorn – Giant

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 570/1007
Title: Giant
Director: George Stevens
Year: 1956
Country: USA

For the first time in ages a film will not be sharing a blog entry. I would say that since this is a 200 minute long epic it would make sense, but longer films like Shoah and La Roue had to share with other films so this isn’t entirely accurate. Then again, it’s unlikely that I will see another film this week so… you know how it is.

Anyway, as epics go I don’t think I have ever watched one with a more attractive leading cast (Gone With The Wind comes ever so close). With Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean all credited as leads it’s just a feast for the eyes to watch them work.

Actually, now that I think on it, there is no way that James Dean is a lead actor in this film. Sure his character is very important, but his screentime is minimal compared to Rock Hudson. I guess that is the power of posthumous consideration.

Taking the place over 25 years Giant tells the story of a powerful Texan family that has to change with the times as oil starts to become uncovered in their area. This discovery of oil and the need to move with the times forms the central idea with concepts like sexism and racism being confronted pretty much head on numerous times in the film.

Rock Hudson plays Bick Benedict, one of a long line of ranchers who finds it hard to change with the times. He is very much of the Texan society that treats women as being empty headed and Mexicans as being very far beneath him. Enter Elizabeth Taylor as the Maryland-born Leslie whose intelligence, determination and empathy pretty much shoves him into the 20th century.

It’s interesting to watch their lives as Leslie doesn’t really change much over the course of 25 years, but Bick is forced to evolve through circumstance. He becomes more open to a woman’s opinion because of his constant interactions with Leslie (and the fact that she is not his equal, but probably more intelligent). He is forced to become more tolerant of the Mexicans when his son marries one and fathers the next heir to the Benedict line. It’s only really in the film’s climactic scene in the diner where we see just how different this man has become and it is incredibly heart-warming.

Watching this in the present day I think I am more shocked by the racism and sexism on display than the standard 1956 watcher of Giant. The scene where Leslie is being told she cannot join in the talk of politics because it is man’s talk (despite the fact that, as she points out, being a Maryland native means you are born next door to politics) is so cringey to watch.

At 3 and a quarter hours is this film a bit overly long in places? Yes it is, but it needs to be somewhat epic in length in order to do justice to the changes that happened to these Texans over the 25 years. An interesting watch, which leaves me with two James Dean films left to see.

XL Popcorn – Gunga Din / Dodsworth

So continueth the dictated film reviews! Damn these wrists!

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: Gunga Din
Director: George Stevens
Year: 1939
Country: USA

It’s a rainy Wednesday and nothing pairs better with a miserable grey day than a black and white movie. Obviously, the pairing depends completely on the quality of the film and I have to say that this is one of those that made me feel remarkably uncomfortable.

As much as I love Cary Grant I found it very difficult to warm to his character (although I still enjoyed the scenes where he had no shirt on). Then again he could have copied and pasted this character into another film and I would have been absolutely fine with that. You see, this is a film set in the British Raj and the sides are very clearly defined – British good, Indians bad. Watching this 80 years later there is a substantial part of me that takes the side of the native Indians who have been strangling the invading British in their sleep.

I kinda expected a rollicking adventure and bromance film which would not be too taxing on the mind grapes. If it was not for the heaped tablespoons of racism it would have probably achieved that. Then again we have a middle aged Jewish man in blackface as the titular Gunga Din (or would the word brow face be more apt here?) and a lot of abuse being hurled by the invading British.

The highlight of the film is Annie the elephant who is a delight whenever she is on screen. And with the likes of Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in this film I do feel that there has been a great deal of wasted potential. Although, is interesting to note the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom used this as inspiration for some of their scenes. Also this was a genre of films back in the day and so did need to be represented on this list… even if it was ridiculously obvious that they used rubber snakes on strings in a torture scene.

dodsworth
Title: Dodsworth
Director: William Wyler
Year: 1936
Country: USA

For some reason and going into Dodsworth my expectations were not that high. I guess it’s because the name Dodsworth made me think of the clock from Beauty and the Beast or some fuddy duddy from the British upper class. Clearly I had no idea what the school was about and that it would be more Journey to Italy than The Magnificent Ambersons.

The question raised by the film is this: how do we cope with growing older? In the case of Mr. and Mrs. Dodsworth you have two sides of the spectrum. The younger wife (who can only have been 3 to 5 years younger) is clinging on to her lost youth whilst her husband is starting to “shrivel up”. In order to discover more about the world in the wake of selling his successful car company the Dodsworths undertake a trip to Europe.

He is eager to go and see the sights, do all of the boring tourist things and visit automobile factories. She wants to go to dances and use this opportunity to engage in high European Society. This conflict of the urge to fill young and the allowance to feel old leads to the ultimate conclusion; this is a couple that cannot stay together. We get the first hint of this when Mrs. Dodsworth flirts with an Englishman on the boat from America to Europe and he goes a bit further than she wants (being a 1936 film he kisses her). This rocks her to her very core. He manages to call out the fact that she is a small town girl unsuccessfully faking her way in society.

Her flirtations continue and either because he trusts her so much or he is just unwilling to notice things go a bit too far. It’s quite sad seeing how this couple who clearly loved each other just don’t know who they are anymore. It gets the point where the wife refuses to acknowledge that she has become a grandmother as it would put off her suitors.

You cannot fault the acting in this in the main three roles and of Mr. and Mrs. Dodsworth and Mrs. Cartwright (Mary Astor). No one escapes without bruises, but because of the time period is obvious that the husband will end up happier than the wife who has been cheating on him and asked for a divorce so she could marry a German count.

Based on the actions we see in the film is almost easy to say that she deserves what she got. However, there had been married for 20 years and it is very clear but she had spent that as a doting housewife without much else in her life. One can only imagine the boredom that led to this explosion of vitality on their trip to Europe. She will have to deal with the heat once she makes her back to America, he will not. She may not be a perfect individual, but then again who is. I feel sorry for her for she’ll have to explain to everyone they ever knew what happened in Vienna.

God, I love this so much more than Gunga Din!

Progress: 498/1007