The Novel as a Film

When talk of the development of a film based on the novel began to circulate, those opposed to the idea seemed in the majority. The Saturday Review noted that "the book made news by irking a considerable number of Texans," and many could not see how the film version would "fail to do the same" (28). Newsweek predicted, "Giant's racial-segregation theme will rile many a Texan and many another" (112). The opinions of Mexican Texans were negligible. After learning that a film version of the novel was in production, one Beaumont man told a Hollywood reporter, "if you make and show that damn picture, we'll shoot the screen full of holes" (Graham 60).

Rather than halting production plans, the controversy caused by the novel convinced Hollywood executives of the box-office potential of such a project. Additionally, the story's depiction of minority discrimination was timely. Two years after the publication of the novel, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional in the now-infamous Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Although the Brown decision involved black students in Topeka, Kansas, it nevertheless drew attention to minority issues across the nation. Giant's focus on discrimination against and ill-treatment of Mexicans was just the sort of story Hollywood was looking for after the Brown decision. Led by producer and director George Stevens, in consultation with Edna Ferber, film production began in 1955.

Still concerned with the negative response the novel had evoked, Stevens and crew toned down the book's most criticized material. As Don Graham noted, "By greatly softening Ferber's indictment of social and economic oppression of Mexicans, the film left its audience with a far more affectionate portrait of Texas than did the novel" (60). Indeed, following its 1956 release, Giant was embraced by most Texans. Movie theaters were packed to capacity for screenings, and the film made millions at the box office. Giant's theme song was played at Texas high school football games, and 1961 gubernatorial candidate John Connally used the tune as his campaign anthem. By adopting a subdued approach to the novel's more controversial topics, Giant's creators safeguarded their investment while ensuring that their message against discrimination reached a mass audience.

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Film Making

Film Making

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