In Giant, Jett Rink finally strikes oil and becomes filthy rich. What does the film say about his wealth? Does he deserve it? Does he do good things with it? And how does it compare with the older wealth of Jordan “Bick” Benedict? (Has he earned it? Does he do good things with it?).
Giant begins as a film Western, but ends up as a melodrama about industrialism. At what point (in what scene) does the film transition from one to the other? What about this scene, in terms of what is seen on screen and how it is edited together, that supports your conclusion?
There are a number of fights in the film. Compare a couple of them in terms of how they fit in with the plot and with the themes of the film. And what are the differences between the way men fight and women fight?
Why does (the first) Luz feel compelled to ride Leslie Benedict’s horse, Whirlwind, which leads to the death of both Luz and the horse. What is the nature of Luz’s rivalry with Leslie? How does this rivalry fit into the larger context of Western machismo and patriarchy?
The film suggests that in the American West of the early 20th century (the film spans from the 1920s to the 1950s), a man defines himself by his mastery of a horse, a gun, and whiskey, and a woman by her skills in house-keeping, knitting, and obedience to men. Choose one or more characters in Giant who live up to, or fail to live up, to the respective masculine and feminine ideals.
One binary we did not discuss in class on Wednesday was the binary of old and young. How does inter-generational conflict play out in the film? What does it have to say about transition and change in the American West, or in America as a whole, during the first half of the 20th century?
Here’s another binary: tea and whiskey. At one point Leslie Benedict goes to visit Jett Rink and he makes tea for her, while sneaking a swallow of whiskey in the kitchen. How does this binary relate to one or more of the binaries we discussed in class on Wednesday?
Let’s go Marxist: In the first half of the film, what main character represents Capital and what character represents Labor? Do these roles hold up in the second half of the film? Or is “class warfare” replaced by different kinds of conflict?
In the film, we see a wedding. We also see two elopements (that is, we don’t see the wedding). What’s up with this “now you see it, now you don’t” strategy? From a film-making perspective, what’s the benefit of showing some weddings and not others?
Giant displays a (giant) clash of acting styles. We have the traditional Hollywood “personification” acting style of Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor, and the “impersonation” acting style (also known as The Method) of James Dean. What does this clash have to say about the dominance or decline of Hollywood in the 1950s? Do the filmmakers prefer one style over the other?
At a few points in the film, we see flags prominently displayed (flags of Texas and flags of the United States). What is their significance? You might want to write about two instances in particular: at the funeral of Luz Benedict and at the funeral of Angel Obregon (returning in a casket from World War II).
Compare/contrast and explain the significance (in the context of the film) of one of the following pairs:
- Jordan “Bick” Benedict II (played by Rock Hudson) and Jordan Benedict III (played by Dennis Hopper)
- Leslie Benedict I (played by Elizabeth Taylor) and Leslie Benedict II (daughter of Leslie Benedict I and Bick Benedict)
- Luz Benedict I (Bick Benedict’s sister) and Luz Benedict II (daughter of Leslie Benedict I and Bick Benedict)