GIANT (George Stevens)
“You should have shot that boy a long time ago. Now he’s too rich to kill.”
After the success of EAST OF EDEN and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, James Dean was poised to steal the show on his next film, GIANT. But George Stevens had other ideas, bigger ideas. As big as all Texas. His adaptation of Edna Ferber’s sprawling epic of the Benedict family and their story of riches to riches, from cattle to oil, was plenty big enough to allow Dean and everyone else to sprawl out and chew as much scenery as they wished. Stevens’ slow-fire direction keeps everything perfectly paced. We can just sit back and enjoy the ride with Rock Hudson & Elizabeth Taylor.
So before meeting that truck on a Northern California Interstate, James Dean completed his triumphant triumvirate. But let’s not forget Dennis Hopper, learning his craft in between watching Dean practicing his.
LUST FOR LIFE (Vincente Minnelli)
Arguably Kirk Douglas’ best performance as the troubled, brilliant Vincent Van Gogh in Minnelli’s biography based on the book by Irving Stone. The technicolor is explosive and the passions run high as Douglas defines just what it means to be a tortured artist.
THE SEARCHERS (John Ford)
John Ford practically invented the Western as a form of cinematic art. Few would debate that. Fewer still would argue against this as representing its pinnacle. Dramatically, pictorially, and structurally a classic.
WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Douglas Sirk)
Douglas Sirk took the American melodrama and turned it upside down. With his dark Germanic world view, he subtly subverted the soap opera and turned it into art. In glossy Technicolor. Todd Haynes would later pay tribute to Sirk with his FAR FROM HEAVEN.
AND GOD CREATED WOMAN (Roger Vadim)
Roger Vadim was no cinematic genius, but he was pretty good the day he cast his then-wife Brigitte Bardot in this project. The story is pure Eurotrash, but it made BB an international star/sex goddess. To his credit, Vadim was really an independent, working outside the French industry, earning him some respect from even the New Wave critics of the day.