Elizabeth Taylor

Saturday, April 21, 2007


George Stevens directed such famous films as Gunga Din, A Place in the Sun and Giant. Kids used to love Gunga Din (1939). Have you seen it? Half the cast is in brownface and Sam Jaffe plays Gunga Din. It’s banned in India. Ignorant children in the U.S. and Canada, such as myself, adored it through the ’50s when it was broadcast, for instance, on Saturday afternoon TV. It’s based on the poem by Rudyard Kipling. Stevens’ A Place in the Sun (1951) is based on the great novel by Theodore Dreiser, An American Tragedy. Elizabeth Taylor plays a socialite in Place in the Sun opposite Montgomery Clift. In Giant (1956), she plays a socialite opposite Rock Hudson and, more antagonistically, James Dean. Like Gunga Din, Giant has a problem with make-up. The film is a family saga; Taylor, Hudson and Dean, in their real world twenties, age into their sixties. It feels like an amateur theatrical which just happens to be produced by Jack Warner and stars the cream of Hollywood. It’s very hard to accept, particularly when you know how Hudson, Dean and Taylor really aged. Dean died days after filming finished. Nevertheless the film is pretty great. Dean starred in only three films, yet has to this day an enduring cult. Within the film, time and Taylor change Hudson’s character with the acutest psychological verisimilitude. The film is a rousing denunciation of racism.

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