Wednesday, December 3, 2008
When I was small, it seemed to take forever before I got to the prize inside the jelly donuts my mother brought home from the bakery. My mouth was little then and I had to munch through a whole lot of powdery doughy stuff to get to the strawberry gold. But when I did my taste buds stood up and cheered; they danced, they sang!
The movie Giant directed by George Stevens (1956) is a jelly donut. This is the kind of movie where you have to chew through and try to digest a lot of white doughy footage before you get to the magic.*
Edna Ferber didn't write a jelly donut book and George Stevens translated it well enough to the screen. But it just doesn't pop, at least not until the jelly walks on screen. Which is ironic since Stevens loathed everything about the Indiana farm boy turned actor that was the jelly that saved his movie.
Liz Taylor is good as the beautiful Leslie. Rock Hudson does a good job with his character, Bic, but together they are bland - amusing and occasionally sexy but mostly bland. If you watch Liz with Monty Clift in No Place in the Sun (another Stevens flick - but all jelly, no dough) they sizzle, they pop. Giant has no such s & p.
At least not until Dean illuminates the screen as Jett Rink. Half hidden beneath a cowboy hat, lariat in hand, mumbling, shy, Dean gives this ignorant bigoted character a depth that goes deeper than the oil drill he labours over.
Savour the jelly as he:
- plays with his lariat while the fat cats try to swindle him.
- surveys his land (one of my fave scenes in all cinema; best on the big screen)
-drives up covered in black crude to Bic and Leslie's doorstep, boasting: "I'm a rich 'un." Then makes a pass at Leslie, telling her in front of her husband that she looks "pert nar good enough to eat."
- ages into a slick 'n' sleezy rich dude in his late 50s then makes a pass at Leslie and Bic's teenaged daughter Luz (played by newcomer Carol Baker).
Jelly Dean, pert nar good enough to eat.
* the jelly donut movie classification is not based on the kind of jelly donut you get at Tim Horton's. That isn't jelly, that's artificial sweet goop, which is also a movie classification but Vargas does not wish to go there.