Dennis Hopper is born in Dodge City, Kansas, 1936. He emerged on the silver screen in 1954 in Johnny Guitar and soon thereafter made a number of films that became classics: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Hopper, never a shrinking violet, had this to say about his early days in Hollywood: “In the ‘50s, when me and Natalie Wood and James Dean and Nick Adams and Tony Perkins suddenly arrived…God, it was a whole group of us that sort of felt like that earlier group—the John Barrymores, Errol Flynns, Sinatras, Clifts—were a little farther out than we were. So we tried to emulate that lifestyle. For instance, once Natalie and I decided we'd have an orgy. And Natalie says, "Okay, but we have to have a champagne bath." So we filled the bathtub full of champagne. Natalie takes off her clothes, sits down in the champagne, and starts screaming. We take her to the emergency hospital. That was our orgy, you understand?”
Entries in giant (5)
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.”
Rock Hudson dies of AIDS in Beverly Hills, 1985. Illinois-born and raised, Roy Fitzgerald made his way to Los Angeles, where he worked as a truck driver while trying to break into the movie business. Acting lessons, capped teeth and a name change served as prologue to his film debut in Fighter Squadron (1948). He was not a natural actor and he had trouble remembering his lines, but his handsome looks and genial nature opened doors, and his onscreen popularity grew. A career high came in 1956 when Hudson starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in Giant and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Along with his work in Seconds (1966), his role as Bick Benedict in Giant was one of his favorite performances. Hudson's least favorite performance came a year later in a bloated remake of a famous Hemingway tale. He reportedly turned down starring roles in Sayonara (1957), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Ben-Hur (1959) to portray Lt. Henry in Charles Vidor’s A Farewell to Arms. Critically and financially, the film was a flop—“the biggest mistake of my career,” Hudson said.
James Dean is killed in a car accident near Cholame, California, 1955. The star of East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956) was born in 1931 in Fairmount, Indiana, and got his first acting gig in a Coke commercial. He played small parts in Sailor Beware (1952), Fixed Bayonets! (1951) and Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952). “I think I am going to make it.” the actor said early in his career, “because, on one hand, I am like [Montgomery] Clift saying ‘Help me’ and, on the other hand, I am Brando saying, 'Screw you!'…and somewhere in between is 'James Dean.'” On September 30, 1955, Dean received a speeding ticket while driving his Porsche Spyder in San Luis Obispo County, California. A couple of hours later, near the town of Cholame, Dean collided with another vehicle and was killed instantly. He was 24 and became the only actor to receive two posthumous Academy Award nominations.