Bigger Than Life

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Bigger Than Life
Bigger Than Life poster.jpeg
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by James Mason
Written by Story:
Berton Roueché
Screenplay:
Cyril Hume
Richard Maibaum
Starring James Mason
Barbara Rush
Walter Matthau
Music by David Raksin
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Edited by Louis R. Loeffler
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates 2 Aug 1956
Running time 95 mins
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million[1]

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.[citation needed] In 1963, Jean-Luc Godard named it one of the ten best films ever made.[2]

Bigger Than Life was based on a 1955 The New Yorker article by medical writer Berton Roueché entitled "Ten Feet Tall".[3]

Plot summary[edit]

Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery (James Mason), who has been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts, is hospitalized with what's 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.

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.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Bigger Than Life was extremely controversial upon its release[citation needed]. Its critique of the patriarchal family was considered shocking for the time, and it was not a financial success[citation needed]; however the film was extremely popular with the critics at the Cahiers du cinéma and in 1963 Jean-Luc Godard named it one of the "Ten Best American Sound Films".[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p250
  2. ^ Editors (December 2, 2013) "A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best American Films Ever Made (1963). Open Culture.
  3. ^ Roueché, Berton (1955), "Ten Feet Tall", The New Yorker; September 10, 1955, pp. 47-77.

External links[edit]