Thursday, May 17, 2018

Book Review time -- Don Graham's GIANT: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film

It's rare that TrustMovies takes time off from his movie watching to actually read a book. And, in fact, he didn't. But because his spouse, Bruce Gorbel, is such a huge fan of Elizabeth Taylor and had only recently watched again (via TCM) one of her better films, Giant, when the chance to read and review the new book by Don Graham, entitled (with surely one of the longest subtitles in book history) GIANT: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary American Film, appeared in his inbox, he ordered a review copy and gave it forthwith to that spouse. Below is the result:

Reading this book is almost like being on the set of Giant, as the filmmaking took place -- so filled it is with detail, people (many of them very famous), and gossip. Especially gossip. The author certainly knows how to write well. He pulls you into the filmmaking process, what was going on in America (especially in Texas, the film's location), regarding the culture and prejudices of the time (the mid-1950s), as well as into the lives of the film's three leading actors  -- Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and especially James Dean.

However, the sense of being on set and observing it all acts as something of a double-edged sword. Just as the actual filmmaking process can be repetitive and lengthy -- all those "takes," over and over again! -- the book eventually grows a little tiresome, too. Really: How much new is there to say (and do we really need to know it all) about James Dean?

Still, for fans of the film -- and they are legion -- and for fans of these particular actors, Don Graham has researched and written a lollapalooza of a movie book: full of facts, possibilities, suppositions and even more rumors and innuendo.

Graham's insights into the personal interaction between the three stars are certainly interesting, even if somewhat conjectural. Surprisingly enough, it is supporting actress Jane Withers who comes across here as a particularly kind soul.

Much credit is also rightly given to the film's director, George Stevens, and to the author of the original novel, Edna Ferber, along with a nod to her influence (and her attempted influence) on the finished film. There is, of course, quite a difference between that novel and what the movie finally became. Reading this book will help you understand what happened -- and why.

Published by St. Martin’s Press, 
GIANT: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, 
Edna Ferber, and the Making of a Legendary 
American Film went on sale April 10, 2018. 
In Hardcover: $27.99 USD 
and via eBook: $14.99 USD.

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