Friday, July 8, 2016

GIANT--A Personal Account of the Making of the Movie in 1956

Giant is a 1956 American film made from a screenplay taken from the novel by Edna Ferber. The film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. Featured roles were played by Carroll Baker, Jane Withers, Chill Wills, Mercedes McCambridge, Dennis Hopper, Sal Mineo, Rod Taylor, Elsa Cardenas, and Earl Holliman.
Liz, Rock, and Dean
In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The outdoor scenes are the topic of the post. They were filmed on the Evans Ranch in West Texas. Who owned it? Who was in the cast from the local population?

These questions came up around 1980 when my husband and I took a road trip with Robert and Susan Pruett, and Bob and Carolyn Goss, all of from San Marcos, Texas. The six of us traveled in the Goss's new van. I remember being on the Evans Ranch, and seeing the skeleton framework that remained when the movie was finished, about thirty years before.
Robert Pruett gave us a narrated tour of the area. His family was heavily involved in the filming of the outdoor scenes. Let me introduce him.

 A True Texas Gentleman, Robert Pruett was born and raised in far West Texas. He attended high school in Marfa and college at Texas Tech University. He often followed the rodeo circuit, riding in all events. Several of his family members were in the production of Giant acting as stunt doubles and bit players. Robert himself was in close contact with some of the actors.

Celia: Robert, where was the location of the facade of the Victorian Mansion and main filming?

Robert: "The film company Warner Brothers  used my cousin's ranch, the Evans Ranch, which was on Highway 90 West of Marfa, Texas--the town with the Mystery Ghost Lights.'


Celia: Your father had a scene in the movie. Can you tell us about that?

Robert: "My dad was known for his excellent bar-b-cue, cooked outdoors in a fire pit. In the big outdoor  neighborhood party and bar-b-cue in the movie, my dad was the man serving the bar-b-cue to the guests that Bick (Rock Hudson) and Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) invited. He had one line and was paid $75."

Celia: Didn't your cousins act as doubles for Mercedes McCambridge when she angrily rode the stud horse, War Wind, out onto the prairie, was thrown, and killed in the movie?

Robert: "Yes, brothers Clay and Bub Evans--two of my cousins--both doubled for her.  They wore female clothes to look like the actress and rode bucking horses. I guess they did a good job."

 Celia: The stud horse in the movie was beautiful. Was he supplied by your cousin from his ranch?

Robert: "No, that horse was shipped from Hollywood. They had to use horses that were on a list the movie people used. They used another bucking horse for the wild ride out on the range."

 Celia: I remember your telling a story about riding with James Dean in one of his cars.

Robert: "Yes, I went rabbit hunting with James Dean. We were both young men. He drove wild, and damaged the car out there. He shot at the car and accidentally hit the transmission. We had to walk 5 miles in the dark to get back."

Celia: Didn't someone ask what you thought of James Dean as an actor?

Robert: "Yes, and I said he didn't act...he played himself. What you saw on the screen was his true character."

 Celia: When the main actors were in Texas, where did they stay? There are no Five-Star hotels out there.

Robert: "Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson stayed in separate private homes, which were turned over to them."

Celia I suppose the indoor scenes in the movie were shot in California.
Robert: "They were--on a soundstage in Hollywood."

Celia Thank you, Robert. I love your stories, and I know you have so many more.
Robert Pruett is an artisan and craftsman of handmade spurs. He began making spurs as a young man in high school. In recent years, he began to make spurs that were works of art. He sold them at Western Heritage Shows. In the eighties, he began to make them full-time, taking custom orders. Some of his work is featured in a coffee table book, titled Bits and Spurs--Motifs, techniques, and Modern Makers.

NOTE: Robert said that many citizens of Marfa appeared in the movie. Each was paid $50 a day. Since the area was in a prolonged drought, and the economy was very poor, the making of the movie Giant helped boost the entire town's economy and provided much needed jobs for the locals.


Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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  1. Here's that BBQ scene on youtube. So all the extras that got introduced earned a 75 dollar paycheck?

    1. 50 dollar paycheck each day they worked. Yes, that's what Robert said. Thanks for the uTube--I remember that scene.

  2. It's always fun to learn behind-the-scenes tidbits of classic movies. Thanks, Celia!

  3. How in the world did you get to know Robert Pruett? He's so interesting. I really loved all these inner circle tidbits about Giant and the behind the scenes activities during the making of the movie. I loved the movie and I've watched it several times on the big screen and TV. It amazes me that the fa├žade of the house still stands after all these years.
    Such an interesting article, Celia. You always come up with something different that captures my attention.

  4. I know Robert through his wife, Susan. She and I taught together ar San Marcos Baptist Academy for about 30 years. I still know her today.So, I've known Robert all these years, too. He is a gifted story-teller. For decades, he created these fabulous of a kind..for big bucks, and some famous Texans have them displayed in their homes and businesses. I did this interview just as he had had a stroke...first of more than one...and I wanted to get this all recorded before he lost his ability to speak. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
    Story about my husband:
    On this trip out west, everything was Giant this, Giant that.
    When we three couples got home..Bob and Carolyn, Robert and Susan, and me and Jim....Susan and Robert had us over for dinner, then we six sat and watched the entire movie Giant...on TV..a DVD.
    Sometime later, we were at some social thing, and my husband was trying to explain this trip to a couple of buddies. I was there, and he described how we six had watched this entire movie back in San Marcos.
    The Friend asked:'What was the name of the movie?"
    My husband said, "Uh, I think it was HUD with Paul Newman."
    Lord, I have laughed about that so many times..honestly, None of it soaked into his brain!!!!!!!!

  5. Celia, this was a wonderful post. I thoroughly enjoyed this. And that story about Jim in your last comment is priceless. Men don't remember movies/actors/etc. like we women tend to. They live in the moment and enjoy it when it's on--right then!LOL

    1. We know too well, don't we???? Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Nice to know some inside details about an epic classic movie!

  7. Great blog post, Celia. Loved the "inside" story from someone who was there.

  8. Wonderful post, Celia. When we lived in Alpine in 1990, part of the skeletal remains were still visible. The Piasano Hotel in downtown Marfa has a wonderful Giant exhibit as much of the cast stayed there.

    1. The production company used a painting that hangs upstairs in the Minger Hotel in San Antonio in Bick's office. It was shot many times.


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