Celebrating Mega Movie Magic: Bosque Museum revisits the 1956 legendary Texas ranching epic “Giant” with special two-day, three-location event featuring "Return To Giant" documentary writer Kirby Warnock
CLIFTON – Telling a big story of big things like poverty and wealth, discrimination and racial tolerance, pride and prejudice while capturing big feelings like passion, love, hate and jealousy, the sprawling, legendary epic film “Giant” delivers with big-name stars Dame Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.
The Bosque Museum will revisit and celebrate the 1956 Oscar-winning Warner Brothers classic drama set in Texas based on Edna Ferber's novel with a two-day event also featuring the 1996 documentary “Return to Giant.”
The two-day event starts on Friday, April 28 with the showing of the documentary at the Clifton Independent School District’s Performance Arts Center. After the show, which starts at 5:30 p.m., the documentary’s writer Kirby Warnock will answer audience questions. A VIP reception follows at the museum. Then on Saturday, April 29, the museum will offer special matinee 10:30 a.m. screening of the movie “Giant” at the historic Cliftex Theatre in downtown Clifton. From 3-5 p.m., Warnock will offer a presentation of objects and photos collected during his travels with movies – entry to the museum will be free to the public on Saturday.
“It was important to the planning committee for this event that we make aspects of it available to everyone,” Bosque Museum Executive Director Erin Shields said. “From the free admission at the museum to the VIP reception, there is a way for all of Bosque County to engage with us.”
The fundraising weekend also continues the museum’s focus on “you need to know and tell your own history” – because history doesn’t tell itself.
The official 1956 trailer for Giant shows all the Texas clichés – the longhorn cattle, mustangs, down town parades and a gushing oil rig with James Dean. It states “[Texas[, more than a state; it’s a state of mind; manners, morals, emotions, of people that are often exhilarating, exasperating, and exciting as the land they belong to. The trailer hails the movie as “the most important event in a decade of entertainment,” and the only movie big enough to bring Hudson and Taylor together.
The movie was nominated for 10 Oscars, with Stevens winning best Director. The nominations included Best Picture, Dean and Hudson for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Mercedes McCambridge as Bick’s sister as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"
According to the film review site Rotten Tomatoes Giant earns its imposing name with a towering narrative supported by striking cinematography, big ideas, and powerful work from a trio of legendary Hollywood leads.
The movie is said to be a mighty monument of memorable entertainment, but with its three hours and 21 minutes, it is quite long.
“There is no better way to while away a Sunday afternoon than with this sprawling saga about the growth of Texas and the families that matured along with the state,” Austin Chronicle film critic Marjorie Baumgarten said in 1996. “If Texas had a state movie, then Giant would be it.”
Two months of filming took place on the Evans Ranch 21 miles outside of Marfa. Early on during shooting, when having dinner with his hosts, Hudson describes Texas being like another country altogether. A few decades later, the Texas state department of tourism used the slogan "Texas: It's like a whole other country!" in a highly successful advertising campaign.
The movie’s storyline spans two generations of a Texas ranching family and their associates, starting in the 1920s. After buying a prize horse in Maryland, Texas Rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict played by Hudson, brings home his independent, socialite bride Leslie played by Taylor to the sprawling Reata ranch. Dean plays ranch hand Jett Rink who becomes enamored with his boss’ wife, which starts the rivalry between the two leading males.
While Rink becomes a multi-millionaire thanks to the oil found on his property, he remains lonely, because love cannot be bought. The story spans two generations of the different relationships, showing the conflict between old money and nouveau riche and the social change of the time regarding discrimination of the Hispanic population. The Benedict/Rink rivalry continues, and it comes to a head again when the Benedicts find out that their daughter Luz II is dating the much older Jett Rink.
The movie’s final shot pans to the face of the Benedict grandchildren – the next generation -- one white, one Hispanic, but both Texans.
When museum patrons Drs. Seth and Jane Witcher saw the documentary “Return to Giant” in the historic Marfa movie theater The Palace, last year, they felt Bosque County residents would appreciate it too – seen in combination with the movie – because who doesn’t love a good rancher story, especially if it’s located in Texas?
Director George Stevens encouraged townspeople to visit the set to watch shooting, interact with cast and crew or take part as extras, dialect coaches, bit players and stagehands. That’s where another Bosque County connection comes in – museum patron B.C. Bennet’s parents played as extras in the movie when he was a child growing up on the ranch near Marfa.
Production notes claimed that of the hundreds of Texans hired to play extras in this movie, ten of whom were millionaires. Stevens had the Palace, which had been boarded up two years earlier, reopened so he could screen the daily rushes there. While in Marfa, Hudson learned how to ride a horse from a local rodeo champion and "horse whisperer" James Weldon Mitchell.
During breaks in filming, Dean learned how to handle a lariat and his hat from local cowboys, so he could act as if he had been working as a ranch hand his entire life. The movie was to be Dean’s last – he died at the age of 24, after a head-on collision in his Porsche 550 Spyder, just a week after finishing work on Giant. Except for Taylor and Hudson, who stayed in rented houses, the rest of the cast and crew stayed at Marfa's one hotel, the hotel Paisano.
Warnock’s 2003 documentary “Return to Giant” with director Jim Brennan narrated by Eagles vocalist Don Henley premiered at SXSW in Austin and aired on PBS. It won Best Documentary at the Lone Star Film Awards.
“They load up the trains, planes and automobiles and live in Marfa, Texas during the summer of 1955 to film a classic,” Warnock said. “However, unlike most location shoots, they live among and mingle with the townspeople, and cast many of them as extras. It's a true tale of what happened when Hollywood rubbed up against small-town Texas, and the stories are both funny and poignant. It also features the late Dennis Hopper in his only on-camera recollections of shooting Greg
A 1974 Baylor University graduate, as well as Texas history & Texas music fan buff, documentary maker Warnock was born in Mississippi but fell in love with Texas as a kid. His dad took him to Marfa in 1957, and the massive Reata Ranch mansion, while deteriorating in the heat of the Texas sun, made a lasting impression. For his first documentary, Warnock visited Marfa again, to document how the movie affected the town and its residents.
Tickets for all events can be purchased through the Bosque Museum website at bosquemuseum.org/giant-weekend or at the door. Tickets for both films are $25 per person; a ticket to just the Cliftex showing is $5 per person. VIP Reception tickets are $100.
“We love to see people engage with the museum,” Shields said. “And this spring we have a diversity of events to interest a broad group of people, from the clay shoot, to the art show, to two different summer camps for the youth.”
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