Nisha Rathode

Bigger Than Life

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Genre  Drama
Producer  James Mason
Country  United States
7.6/10 IMDb

Director  Nicholas Ray
Music director  David Raksin
Language  English
Bigger Than Life movie poster
Release date  2 Aug 1956
Based on  Ten Feet Tall 1955 story in The New Yorker  by Berton Roueche
Writer  Cyril Hume (story), Richard Maibaum (story), Burton Roueche (article)
Cast  James Mason (Ed Avery), Barbara Rush (Lou Avery), Walter Matthau (Wally Gibbs), Robert F. Simon (Dr. Norton), Christopher Olsen (Richie Avery), Roland Winters (Dr. Ruric)
Similar movies  Related Nicholas Ray movies
Tagline  The story of the handful of hope that became a fistful of hell!

Bigger than life trailer 1956 the criterion collection

Bigger Than Life is an American DeLuxe Color CinemaScope film made in 1956 directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Mason, who also co-wrote and produced the film, about a school teacher and family man whose life spins out of control upon becoming addicted to cortisone. The film co-stars Barbara Rush as his wife and Walter Matthau as his closest friend, a fellow teacher. Though it was a box-office flop upon its initial release, many modern critics hail it as a masterpiece and brilliant indictment of contemporary attitudes towards mental illness and addiction. In 1963, Jean-Luc Godard named it one of the ten best American sound films ever made.


Bigger Than Life movie scenes

Bigger Than Life was based on a 1955 article by medical writer Berton Roueché in The New Yorker, titled "Ten Feet Tall".

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Bigger than life 1956 james mason barbara rush walter matthau drama

Plot summary

Bigger Than Life Review Bigger than Life Film Comment

Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery (James Mason), who has been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts, is hospitalized with what is diagnosed as polyarteritis nodosa, a rare inflammation of the arteries. Told by doctors that he probably has only months to live, Ed agrees to an experimental treatment: doses of the hormone cortisone.

Bigger Than Life Bigger Than Life 1956 The Criterion Collection

Ed makes a remarkable recovery. He returns home to his wife, Lou (Barbara Rush), and their son, Richie (Christopher Olsen). He must keep taking cortisone tablets regularly to prevent a recurrence of his illness. But the "miracle" cure turns into a nightmare when Ed begins to misuse the tablets, causing him to experience wild mood swings and, ultimately, a psychotic episode which threatens the safety of his family.


Bigger Than Life Bigger Than Life Cinema Etc

Bigger Than Life was extremely controversial upon its release, and it was not a financial success. Mason, who produced the film as well as starring in it, blamed its failure on its use of the then-novel widescreen CinemaScope format. American critics panned the film, considering it melodramatic and heavyhanded. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called it tedious, "dismal", and "more pitiful than terrifying to watch".

Bigger Than Life BIGGER THAN LIFE Trailer 1956 The Criterion Collection YouTube

However, the film was popular with critics at the influential magazine Cahiers du cinéma. Jean-Luc Godard called it one of the ten best American sound films. Likewise, François Truffaut praised the film, noting the "intelligent, subtle" script, the "extraordinary precision" of Mason's performance, and the beauty of the film's CinemaScope photography.

Bigger Than Life Review Bigger than Life Film Comment

Modern critics have pointed out Ray's use of widescreen cinematography to depict the interior spaces of a family drama, rather than the open vistas typically associated with the format, as well as his use of extreme close-ups in portraying the main character's psychosis and megalomania. The film is also recognized for its multi-layered examination of the American nuclear family in the Eisenhower era. While the film can be read as a straightforward exposé on medical malpractice and the overuse of prescription drugs in modern American society, it has also been seen as a critique of consumerism, the male-dominated traditional family structure, and the claustrophobic conformism of suburban life. Truffaut saw Ed's drug-influenced speech to the parents of the parent-teacher association as having fascist overtones. The film has also been interpreted as an examination of masculinity and a leftist critique of the low salaries of public school teachers in the United States.

Bigger Than Life Bigger Than Life The Man Who Left His Will on Film Jonathan Rosenbaum


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Similar Topics
Barbara Rush
Cyril Hume
James Mason