Giant @ Northwest Film Forum
Three queer icons in high camp mode 🤠
Saturday and Sunday, Aug 27-28
James Dean only headlined three movies before he met his unfortunate end at age 24 on that strip of California highway. Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause is his most iconic, and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden bears the Steinbeck adaptation stamp of approval. But my favorite is 1956’s Giant, which will play at NWFF in a brand-new 4k restoration.
It’s a doozy based on the novel by Edna Ferber (Show Boat), a 197-minute, decades-spanning epic about Texas cattle ranchers who let love and oil make fools of them all. Rock Hudson plays Bick Benedict, a wealthy Texan who woos and marries northern socialite Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), only to have her push against his Lone Star State ways. Enter the delightfully named Jett Rink (James Dean), a poor ranch hand with eyes for Leslie. It’s three queer icons in high camp mode, their performances aimed toward the heavens, every barb as searing as the sun over the high desert.
If you want to witness an oil-covered Dean engaging in fisticuffs, you’ve come to the right place.
Giant is one of the great bisexual studio melodramas of the 1950s, a time when everything was censored or bowdlerized into subtext. It came out the same year as another gay-coded film, Carol Reed’s Trapeze, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis as two European circus acrobats trying toperfect the dangerous triple somersault and Gina Lollobrigida as the aerialist who comes between them. Kino Lorber restored it a few years ago if you’re looking for a proper movie pairing.
Giant’s bonafides also reverberate through Robert Altman’s 1982 film Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean—which notably features a central trans character—about a James Dean fan club reuniting at their hometown Woolworth’s only an hour away from where they shot the western melodrama.