Rick’s Journal – MY FILM CAREER
I once had the good fortune to hear director George Stevens speak. I had double the luck to hear him talk about Giant. I attended a showing of the film on the UCLA campus, a showing billed as offering Stevens in a Q & A afterwards. The program drew a crowd which stayed in place after all three hours and seventeen minutes of the film to talk with the man who created it. George Stevens was quiet but articulate, assured but courteous.
Having seen Giant several times, always with unappreciative and/or unsympathetic audiences, I was looking forward to watching it with an informed and film-savvy group. Alas!
Stevens did not receive many questions, but the one he took from the young woman directly behind me made up for any lack. The questioner addressed the climactic scene in the roadside diner which stars Rock Hudson as knight in shining armor. Hudson, who as Bick Benedict earlier in the film has referred to Mexicans as “those people,” but now has a Mexican daughter-in-law, takes up for an elderly Mexican and his family who are being denied service in a local diner. He gets into a fistfight with the owner of the diner, and they slug it out as “The Yellow Rose Texas” ironically blurts Texas pride from the jukebox. The owner is even bigger than Hudson and knocks him out. As he lies unconscious on the restaurant floor, the owner tosses onto him the sign from the wall about the right to refuse service.
The young woman in the row behind me told Stevens she found the scene obvious and too long, and she wondered why he had to be beat us over the head with his racial message. She told George Stevens he was unsophisticated.
Stevens calmly and quietly made three points. He said that he had aimed the scene not at audience members with her convictions but at those without them. He said he thought sophistication was based on factors of location and milieu and, perhaps, trade or craft. And finally: “Many points throughout my movie that may have puzzled you are quite taken for granted by some of the sophisticated cowhands I met down in Texas.”
John L., the movie buddy attending with me, described George Stevens’ response as the greatest, and politest, putdown he had ever heard.
Rick’s Flicks also discussed Giant in the post for Friday, August 26.
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SHOWING NOTICES FOR NORTHEAST OHIO
On September 11 and 12 The Akron Nightlight is showing Akron. The 11th showing is at 7:30 and the 12th is at 7:00.
On September 16 Daichi Saito will appear at Oberlin College and present a program of his films at 7:00 PM.
NEXT POST Friday September 16
See you AT the movies,