In the Downton Abbey Tradition: 1956’s Giant

12 Feb

I know, I know, Giant came first.  But Downton Abbey came first historically.  And so did England.

There is something so refreshing about Downton and, yes, it is in the same tradition as Giant and other important and influential films of its era.

They have a clear sense of values, of right and wrong.  

Those who do well, end up being rewarded, eventually.  Those who do evil are eventually exposed and fall by the wayside.  

Note that, theologically, nothing is said about people being inherently good or evil.  We are all born with a sin nature.  But in this world and on into eternity, our choices after birth matter.  

Downton Abbey shows that.  So does Giant. 

I saw Giant for the first time today.  I got up at 6 AM and watched it till almost 9:30 on Turner Classic Movies.  Yes, it is an epic.  And, yes, I am glad I made the time for it in this period of unemployment.  

In fact, since Noel was already awake, it was kind of fun to sit on the end of our bed, watching with the lights off, on top of our warm comforter, with a quilt across my lap and a plushy throw around my shoulders.  Very cozy on a day when we expect more snow . . .

I have long “collected” epic films that start with “G,” most of them war movies:  Gone With the Wind, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, Gladiator, The Grapes of Wrath, and Gallipoli (well, that one is a bit shorter than the others but packs a punch nonetheless).  I will add Giant to that number.

It is said that Giant was Rock Hudson’s best film ever and one of Elizabeth Taylor’s best.  They aged beautifully across two generations.  

It was James Dean’s last film.  He remained the rebel till the end, still without a cause, except he envied the wealth of the other two, and their ranching family, and became a self-made man merely to get revenge (and to try to marry their daughter).  

The lessons were clear.  Rock Hudson’s character was changed by being married to Elizabeth Taylor’s character, who brought to Texas and to ranching a kind disposition toward everyone, especially the Hispanic people who already lived in the state when the U.S. acquired it.  

Everything ties up neatly, throughout the movie, not just at the end.  

The way Downton Abbey neatly ties up approximately one storyline per week.

In an era when the majority of movies are made to promote not just ambiguity in life (which we all face every day as an inevitable part of our existence) but ambiguity in values, a movie like Giant is refreshing.  Most movies in our era end with totally messy outcomes which we can second guess for weeks.  It is not just that it is hard to figure out the complex situations in these movies, it is that they are never resolved.  Resolution itself appears to be held up as a bad thing.  

It is good to see films and television series in which the director sets out to use situations and problems in the lives of the characters to cause them to grow morally.  If that results in neatly tied up endings, all the better because our lives rarely do that for us.   

We will never become perfect on this earth, but we can all grow.   

And I will never tire of such stories as Giant, inspiring us in that direction!  

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