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20 Behind-the-scenes Photos from the ‘Giant’ in Marfa, Texas in 1955

Ian Smith

Giant is a 1956 American drama film, directed by George Stevens from a screenplay adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat from the novel by Edna Ferber. The film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean… Giant was the last of James Dean’s three films as a leading actor, and earned him his second and last Academy Award nomination – he was killed in a car accident before the film was released.

Here’s a collection of 20 interesting photos of James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson filming Giant in Marfa, Texas in 1955.

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (1)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (2)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (3)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (4)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (5)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (6)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (7)

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Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (8)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (9)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (10)

The film begins with Jordan “Bick” Benedict, played by Hudson, arriving at Ardmore, Maryland, to purchase a stallion from the Lynnton family. The first part of the picture was actually shot in Albemarle County,Virginia, and used the Keswick, Virginia, railroad station as the Ardmore railway depot.Much of the subsequent film, depicting “Reata”, the Benedict ranch, was shot in and around the town of Marfa, Texas, and the remote, dry plains found nearby, with interiors filmed at the Warner Brothers studios in Burbank, California. The “Jett Rink Day” parade and airport festivities were filmed at the Burbank Airport.

Ferber’s character of Jordan Benedict II and her description of the Reata Ranch were based on Robert “Bob” J. Kleberg, Jr. (1896-1974) and the King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas. Like the over half-million-acre Reata, King Ranch comprises 825,000 acres (3,340 km2; 1,289 sq mi) and includes portions of six Texas counties, including most of Kleberg County and much of Kenedy County, and was largely a livestock ranch before the discovery of oil. The fictional character Jett Rink was inspired partly by the extraordinary rags-to-riches life story of the wildcatter oil tycoon Glenn Herbert McCarthy (1907–1988). Author Edna Ferber met McCarthy when she was a guest at his Houston, Texas, Shamrock Hotel (known as the Shamrock Hilton after 1955), the fictional Emperador Hotel in both the book and the film.

The Australian actor Rod Taylor was cast in one of his earliest Hollywood roles after being seen in an episode of Studio 57, “The Black Sheep’s Daughter”

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (11)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (12)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (13)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (14)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (15)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (16)

Although the film adaptation closely follows the plot of the book, there are noticeable changes and additions to and from the source material. Ferber’s story begins in medias res with the preparations for Jett Rink’s celebratory dinner. In contrast to the film, the novel describes Jett as being a broad and beefy man whose sole motivation for becoming rich is to prove himself better than other Texans. His relationship with Leslie is also different in the book: Leslie considers him to be a horrible person, whereas the film has her coming to understand Jett for who he is. Jett’s feelings for Leslie are more evident in the novel than in the film; at one point, he urges her to leave Bick for good. Whereas the novel has the diner scene, it is vastly different from the film, in which Bick challenges the racist owner Sarge and loses in a fistfight. Instead, the book does not have Bick present, and it ends with Leslie leaving the diner with her daughter and daughter-in-law.

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (17)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (18)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (19)

Behind-the-scenes Giant, 1956 (20)

Photos via