Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Dennis Hopper
Director: George Stevens
A sweeping epic set in Texas starring Liz Taylor as Leslie, a beautiful smart young woman who impulsively marries Bick Benedict (Hudson), and adjusts to life on a ranch in Texas, where she’s expected to be seen and not heard and know her place. Into this mix is thrown a young man that Bick hates, and who falls hopelessly in love with Leslie, Jett (Dean) who starts out as nothing and slowly makes it big.
The film starts when they’re young and takes in their children and grandchildrens lives, and how that central triangle effects them all. The themes of race, old and new money and the changing role of women is all taken on, in this epic that lasts for three hours.
It’s A Must See Because: perhaps what made me add this film to the list was that Taylor and Hudson were best friends in Hollywood, and I wanted to see them on screen together, thrown in with that tragic figure of James Dean. What more could you ask for from a film?
Taylor as Leslie is stunning, and full of intelligence and fire. Leslie and her husband fight for each other and their marriage through different values, and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself and for change. She’s the anchor of the film, and she’s outstanding. It’s easy to see why Jett can’t get over her.
It’s also really fascinating to see Dennis Hopper as her adult son, who cracks the mould, becoming a doctor instead of a rancher. Known far more for his later performances, in films such as Easy Rider or Apocalypse Now, here he’s a rebel in a quiet, buttoned up way, and almost unrecognisable.
It’s an unusual film for taking on the subjects of race and class, and as James Dean’s final film before his untimely death, the film sweeps across the beautiful landscape of Texas, showing the beautiful and ugly sides of life over the three generations.
See It If: you love American epics, or are a fan of Taylor, Dean or Hudson, it’s very beautiful and surprisingly political.