The original script of Giant was by Ivan Moffat, myself and Fred Guiol. It was based on Edna Ferber’s novel and was 370 pages. I talked with Edna and she liked the script very much, saying “You know, I wrote this book twice already, and wanted to write it a third time and fill it out. But I think you’ve done it with the screenplay.” This was a surprise assessment from a lady whose novel we were massacring, After finishing the script I made a deal with Warner Bros. to make the film there. Then Freddie and I sat down and worked on cutting the script. We cut it from 370 pages to 250 pages. I think we got it down to 240 pages.
The film runs three hours and nineteen minutes and was made to be screened with an intermission. We had worked on the cut to move it along as fast as possible, but I didn’t see how we could keep an audience sitting there for that amount of time without an intermission. The end of the first act is when Jett Rink’s oil well comes in, and he arrives in his old rickety truck and confronts his rich friends on the porch, salutes Bick Benedict’s wife and gets punched on the chin for his trouble and then hits Bick. It was a good act ending: strong and with promise because things were difficult. The next act started with the oil wells coming in. When we first screened it, we found that somehow or other the pace of the picture meant we could get away without an intermission, and we knew we had to run the picture that way. I would have predicted disaster for Giant, because when you have an intermission, people go out and talk about it; then they’re anxious to go back in and see the rest of it, and it’s not much of a burden on them. But the picture went straight through, and it’s always been run that way. The picture did extremely well; it had far more audience than any Warner Bros. picture ever had.
The structural development, I believe, is what saves it. It has an excellent structure design, which has to do with the audience anticipating and looking some distance ahead all the way to the finish, which is a reversal on how this kind of story would normally end—in which the hero is heroic. Here the hero is beaten, but his gal likes him. It’s the first time she’s ever really respected him because he’s developed a kind of humility—not instinctive, but beaten into him.