A ‘Giant’ performance

Not really apropos of anything 909, but over the weekend I watched “Giant,” the enormously long 1956 movie that’s one of only three with James Dean. He plays a Texas ranch hand who ends up a rich oilman and, by contrast to his “you’re tearing me apart” angst in “Rebel Without a Cause,” gives what I would call a comic performance.

He wears a cowboy hat tilted forward at a 90-degree angle, walks funny, mumbles, plays with a length of rope, drops a waterbag for no particular reason while hanging it on a nail and crosses his legs with deliberation. Making tea for Elizabeth Taylor, he puts down her saucer, then his, then her cup, then his, then adjusts the placement of her cup, pauses, almost adjusts it again, then withdraws.

It’s a mannered, attention-getting performance, but it’s hysterical. Dean reminded me of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, who steals every scene he’s in. Depp’s mannerisms defied you not to watch his every move, and so did Dean’s in “Giant.”

“Giant” could have used Jim Backus in an apron, though.

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  • Or Sal Mineo for that matter.

    [Are you kiddin’? Sal Mineo WAS in “Giant,” playing Angel, a Mexican kid. Not only that, so was Dennis Hopper. — DA]

  • meg

    Actually, James Dean as Jett reminds me of Benicio Del Toro in *Usual Suspects.* Or the other way round — I saw *Giant* long before *US* came out.

    And we could all use Jim Backus in an apron, surely. Get yours today!

  • Marilyn Varney

    Everyone needs a daily dose of David Allen’s blog.

    [Too bad more people aren’t here to heed your words, Marilyn. But I appreciate the thought. — DA]


    Awww, c’mon Jimbo … you know you have to read the David Allen Blog before you go
    out with those hooligans!!

    [You’re tearing me apart, DICEBLU. — DA]

  • Bob House

    I saw “Giant” as a kid, in the back seat of my parents’ car, at the Valley Drive-In in Montclair (with the huge neon mural of old Spanish days). What I remember about the movie is that it became famous for making viewers sick because they showed actors eating from a cooked cow’s head on the buffet table in the big party scene.

    Sorry to be late on congratulations, but it looked like (from your coverage and Bulletin photos) everyone had a great time at the Christmas parade. I had hoped to make it over but didn’t. You definitely looked Grand.

    [Thanks, Bob. Sorry you couldn’t make it. And yeah, in the movie Elizabeth Taylor’s character faints when somebody scoops a big white lump of cow brains onto her paper plate. I imagine viewers may have had a similar reactiion. Blecchh. — DA]

  • Dave,

    You’re right, of course. Ed Platt, then.

    I bow to your superior movie memory.

    [Any movie would be improved with The Chief. — DA]

  • Don J

    Dave, “Giant” is always fun to watch…the whole Mexican subplot is amusing, what with a painted-up Sal Mineo & all. I’ve been thru Marfa a few times…I was amazed to see how much of “Little Reata” still exists, it’s a prop set built 50 years ago while the actor utilizing them was dead not months after filming.

    [There’s some interesting stuff on the DVD about Marfa, the Texas town where much of the movie was filmed, and of course about James Dean too. He died a couple of days after his last scene wrapped, and about two weeks before production ended. — DA]