A botch job by Sam Goldwyn, who exercised his power as producer by changing directors—from Howard Hawks to William Wyler—halfway through the shooting. Some sources hold that Wyler shot only the last ten minutes, working from Hawks’s script; others claim that Wyler reshot much of Hawks’s work. But the first part of the film, the best, is unmistakably Hawks, as Edward Arnold and Walter Brennan (in an early part, his first Academy Award performance) fight for the hand of Frances Farmer, against the background of the north-woods logging country. The Edna Ferber story (like her Giant) then shifts generations, and the action loses much of its scale. Farmer remains a wonder, in one of her few fully realized parts as an early and lusty version of the Hawksian woman (1936).
Like the title says, it’s a whopper: 201 minutes of a Texas family’s rise to fame and fortune, based on an Edna Ferber novel. Much of it is awful, but it’s almost impossible not to be taken in by the narrative sprawl: like many big, bad movies, Giant is an enveloping experience, with a crazy life and logic of its own. George Stevens directed, at the height of his bloated epic period (1956), but unlike his A Place in the Sun, this one isn’t entirely sober and sanctimonious; it takes some pleasure in melodrama for its own sake. The mansion on the plain, designed by art director Boris Levin, remains one of the most memorable graphic images of the 50s. With Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean—in his last and strangest role.