Bigger Than Life
|Bigger Than Life|
|Directed by||Nicholas Ray|
|Produced by||James Mason|
|Music by||David Raksin|
|Edited by||Louis R. Loeffler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release date(s)||2 Aug 1956|
|Running time||95 mins|
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 films ever made.
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.
- James Mason as Ed Avery
- Barbara Rush as Lou Avery
- Walter Matthau as Wally Gibbs
- Robert F. Simon as Dr. Norton
- Christopher Olsen as Richie Avery
- Roland Winters as Dr. Ruric
- Rusty Lane as Bob LaPorte
- Rachel Stephens as Nurse
- Kipp Hamilton as Pat Wade
Bigger Than Life was extremely controversial upon its release. Its critique of the patriarchal family was considered shocking for the time, and it was not a financial success; 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".
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History, Scarecrow Press, 1989 p250
- Editors (December 2, 2013) "A Young Jean-Luc Godard Picks the 10 Best American Films Ever Made (1963). Open Culture.
- Roueché, Berton (1955), "Ten Feet Tall", The New Yorker; September 10, 1955, pp. 47-77.
- Bigger Than Life at the Internet Movie Database
- Bigger Than Life at AllMovie
- Bigger Than Life at the TCM Movie Database