GiantAFI Rank: #82
Year Released: 1956
Director: George Stevens
Actors: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean
An intersting, epic tale which takes a young Maryland woman (Taylor) and a young, feisty Texan rancher (Hudson) who go through decades of life together, dealing with progress, racism, and modernism.
Taylor isn't a dainty flower. She knows how to ride and grab a hold of what she wants. In short order she's put on pants, has lept on her horse, and has taken over the ranch.
Interestingly, a key issue in this long, long movie (200+ minutes!) is racism. However, there is no character here who doesn't have issues. Hudson is constantly scolding his wife about talking to the "help" and even at the end he's upset that his grandson looks like a Mexican. Dean is poor but tries to make sure it's clear he's not a "Wetback". And Taylor, whose character is supposedly the enlightened Eastern woman, grew up with black servants and never seemed to care much for them at all. She treated them like shadows. So while she does see Mexicans as worth talking to, I'm not quite convinced.
The movie is interesting as it moves from the 20s, when Taylor is accused of being the "Carrie Nation" of the house with her wild talk of females caring about politics, up through the decades as hair styles and fashions change. The characters age from young to older, although as we know what Taylor actually aged like, this was quite a generous look at her moving through the years.
This does have strong male and female characters, which is nice. It barely passes the Bechdel test, with Taylor talking with the other women about playing with a spinning wheel, which really was them complaining about the men kicking them out of the "adult talk".
I'm glad I saw this once, but I think many other movies cover the issue of racism much more strongly. They give Hudson credit here for finally punching out a diner owner near the end for evicting Mexicans from his restaurant - and then promptly make him weak again by having him complain about the skin color of his grandson. Just not a great message for me.
AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100