Elizabeth Taylor is born in London, 1932. Her movie career began in 1942 with There’s One Born Every Minute, playing the daughter of a man who develops a pudding that’s chock full of Vitamin Z (!). Her last big-screen endeavor was The Flintstones in 1994. In her 52 years in front of the camera, she made a total of 52 pictures, was Oscar nominated five times and won twice—for BUtterfield 8 (1960) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). In 1955 she embarked on her 25th film, which turned out to be one of her best. Giant, released in 1956, told the sprawling saga of a Texas rancher, his Maryland-born wife and a ranch hand who inherits an oil-rich parcel of land. Directed by George Stevens, the film co-starred Rock Hudson, Mercedes McCambridge, Carroll Baker, Dennis Hopper, Jane Withers and—in his last performance—James Dean, who was killed in a car accident a matter of days after his work was finished on the film. One evening towards the beginning of the shoot, Hudson and Taylor decided to get to know each other over drinks and, by 3:00 am the next morning, ended up bosom buddies and completely blotto. Two and a half hours later they reported to the set to shoot a wordless scene requiring Hudson and Taylor, both valiantly trying not to throw up, to look lovingly upon each other. Onlookers were reportedly moved by their performance.
Entries in george stevens (5)
By the time The African Queen was released in 1951, star Humphrey Bogart had been making movies for 23 years and had been Oscar nominated just once, for Casablanca (1942). “He had never felt people in the town liked him much,” wife Lauren Bacall wrote years later. That was not the case with his characterization of scrappy, hard-drinking riverboat captain Charlie Allnut, which earned Bogart great reviews, healthy box office and enthusiastic acclaim from the Academy. During filming in the Congo, Bogart and director John Huston famously chose liquor over drinking water, thus avoiding the dysentery that plagued costar Katharine Hepburn. "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus, and Scotch whisky,” Bogart said of his time in Africa. “Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead." On the night of the awards, Greer Garson called Bogart up to the podium to accept his Best Actor trophy. “My wife let out a scream when my name was called,” the actor said. “She jumped four feet and almost had a miscarriage.”
An American in Paris
George Stevens, A Place in the Sun
Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen
Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire
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.
George Stevens dies of a heart attack in Lancaster, California, 1975. The director of Gunga Din (1939), The More the Merrier (1943) and Giant (1956) made one of his most lauded films in 1949, the drama A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy. Released in 1951, the movie starred Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, a blue collar joe with a pregnant wife (Shelley Winters), who becomes part of an upscale world that includes the beautiful Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). “In A Place in the Sun, I was interested in the mood and emotional effect of the story,” Stevens (above, on the set) explained in a 1973 interview. “I wanted the audience to relate to a character whose behavior it might not subscribe to. To bring that about, one must let the audience see his desire. They have to know his need for that thing that, even accidentally, traps him. So how do you do those things? Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively superseded by the next. Isn’t that it? The hatchet on the rope and the guillotine falls in the next cut. We have our electricity that creates a current that blows through a film. When I cut the film, I became more and more conscious of the value of one scene against another, and how this spelled something out. I wanted to edit the film in a way that meant more than the addition of one scene to another, I wanted a kind of energy to flow through. What really interested me was the relationship of images, from this one to that. Shelley Winters busting at the seams with sloppy melted ice cream in a brass bed, as against Elizabeth Taylor in a white gown with blue balloons floating from the sky. Automatically that’s an imbalance, and by imbalance you create drama. I’m interested in knowing—as visually as it can be stated—what’s on this boy’s mind.”
Shane, starring (left to right) Brandon De Wilde, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin and Alan Ladd, premiers at Radio City Music Hall in 1953. Shot during the summer and fall of 1951, the movie underwent extensive editing before director George Stevens was satisfied with it. It would be the last movie Jean Arthur made before she retired.