George Stevens’ adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel is unapologetically epic, ambitious and provocative. Dean appears as Jett Rink, a Texas cowboy who loses out to love rival Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) for the affection of Leslie Lynnton (Elizabeth Taylor). When Rink discovers oil, his newly rich status enables him to extract bitter revenge, starting a feud that will taint generations.
Dean’s naturalistic acting style is perhaps most striking here, contrasting with Hudson and Taylor’s more formal Hollywood manner. His final film performance would earn him his second posthumous Oscar nomination, and be a beacon for future generations of actors.
This film is screening as part of our focus on James Dean, with new digital restorations of the three films that are the best part of his legacy (April 25th – May 1st).