A ‘sprawling epic’ featuring legendary actors

Rock Hudson, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor. Some of the best-known actors of their time – of all time, really – can be seen in this week’s film at the Orpheum. It isn’t often these days that we have the opportunity to see longer films, and many may wish not to. But “Giant,” George Stevens’ sprawling adaptation of Edna Ferber’s best-selling novel, successfully walks a fine line between potboiler and serious drama for its 210-minute running time. Even better, it’s one of the few epic films that still will hold the moviegoers’ interest.

Giant opens in 1920s Maryland, where Texas rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict (Rock Hudson) has arrived to buy a stallion from its owner, Dr. Horace Lynnton (Paul Fix). But much as Bick loves and knows horses, he finds himself even more transfixed by the doctor’s daughter, Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), and after some awkward moments, she has to admit that she’s equally drawn to the shy, laconic Texan. They get married and Leslie spends her honeymoon traveling with Jordan to his ranch that covers nearly a million acres of Texas. The remainder of the film tells the story of this ranch and the people who live and work there.

Seen today, “Giant” seems the least dated of any of James Dean’s three starring films, in part because it addresses issues – racism and segregation, sexism, greed, oil wealth – that remain relevant more than 50 years later. It also has the best all-around acting and the best script of any of Dean’s films. Taken in broader terms, it’s even better, with two of the best performances that Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson ever gave, and perhaps the second-best of Hudson’s whole career (after Seconds).

Giant’s director, George Stevens, won the Academy Award for Best Director for 1956 and the film received nine further nominations, two for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Dean and Hudson). The other nominations came in the categories of Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Mercedes McCambridge); Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Color; Best Costume Design, Color; Best Film Editing; Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture; Best Picture; and Best Writing, Best Screenplay – Adapted.

Show times are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Visit the theater for tours and check out the gallery and exhibit hall that features Iowa stage and film memorabilia and information. Call the Orpheum Theater Center movie hotline at 641-844-5907 or visit www.orpheumcenter.com

Compiled by Orpheum staff