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Return To Giant Documentary


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I saw this last night on TCM and enjoyed the recollections of the towns people who watched the filming and some worked as extras. However I thought it was a brand new documentary but it appears it was actually done 20 years ago, since most talk about it being the 40 year anniversary. I was disappointed that Elizabeth Taylor or Jane Withers did not particpate, and wished there was more from Carroll Baker. I got to see her last year.

 

She was at NY's Film Forum on 09/30/16 to introduce the 60th anniversary screening of George Stevens 1956 classic, along with Stevens' son George Jr. 

 

She wears her hair long, though it's all gray now. If you closed your eyes, she sounds exactly same as she did 60 years ago, her voice still sounding young and girlish. 

 

Some tidbits: 

 

She said that she considered James Dean a good actor and friend, but on set "he acted like a BRAT!" Apparently he felt he worthy of "star" treatment and would complain about being kept waiting for his scenes. 

 

On Rock Hudson- "He was one of the most FUN people I ever met, he threw a party every night! And invited the whole cast, right down to the extras. By the way, Jimmy never went!" 

 

She also said that Elizabeth Taylor, Hudson and Dean were each given their own house to stay in, but she was given an apartment with one bathroom, which she had to share with Mercedes McCambridge and Jane Withers. 

 

The interviewer at the screening (an author,I can't recall his name)talked about how she worked with great actor's directors like Stevens, Elia Kazan (Baby Doll), William Wyler (The Big Country). Baker insisted that John Ford (Cheyenne Autumn) should be included in that list. She said great directors never tell you how to act, they hire you and expect you just to do your job. 

 

What is your opinion of the documentary or the film?

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I enjoyed the Return to Giant documentary. The scenes of Marfa, yesterday and today, and the voices of the locals were special treats. It was good to see George Stevens, Jr., Rock Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Earl Holliman, Carroll Baker, and Monte Hale, but Jane Withers would have been a great addition, even if they couldn't get Elizabeth Taylor.

 

Several long scenes from the film were included, which would have been fine if I hadn't just seen most of the movie on TCM. It was fun to learn that the "oil" James Dean is covered with was actually molasses. Apparently he did not like having to do half a dozen takes with the molasses gushing all over him. Dean got along well with the locals, who, according to the documentary, accepted him as "a good old boy."

 

Because Edna Ferber's novel had aroused a lot of controversy, Stevens went out of his way to include locals in his film amd let bystanders watch the scenes being shot and even the daily rushes. The movie was accepted by Texans in a way that the novel had not been, thanks to Stevens.

 

Fans of the movie would almost certainly like the documentary. 

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In the documentary "England's Other Elizabeth" Liz discusses the Giant location shoot and the three houses.

 

She says Jimmy and Rock disliked each other immensely, and she would go from house to house to spend time with each guy alone...she says she stayed up for hours talking to Jimmy, but wouldn't reveal the details about the conversations.. . .

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Return to Giant is included among the special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Giant, along with another similar behind-the-scenes documentary, Memories of Giant, from 1998, which includes some of the same interview footage with the cast and crew that was in Return to Giant.

 

However, Memories of Giant also includes a gem of an interview with Jane Withers reminiscing about filming in Marfa, sharing home movies she filmed on the set, and recalling some fun and touching memories about the cast, in particular an interesting story about James Dean and his shirt. 

 

Both documentaries are enjoyable, but I prefer Memories of Giant since Jane is included.    

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