Though ignored at the time of its release, Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life is now recognized as one of the great American films of the 1950s. When a friendly, successful suburban teacher and father (James Mason, in one of his most indelible roles) is prescribed cortisone for a painful, possibly fatal affliction, he grows dangerously addicted to the experimental drug, resulting in his transformation into a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot. This Eisenhower-era throat-grabber, shot in expressive CinemaScope, is an excoriating take on the nuclear family; that it came in the day of Father Knows Best makes it all the more shocking—and wildly entertaining. —The Criterion Collection
Born in small-town Wisconsin in 1911, Nicholas Ray’s early experience with film came with some radio broadcasting in high school. He left the University of Chicago after a year, but made such an impression on his professor and writer Thorton Wilder that he was recommended for a scholarship with Frank Lloyd Wright, where he learned the importance of space and geography, not to mention his later love for CinemaScope. When political differences came between the seasoned architect and his young protégé, Ray left for New York and became immersed in the radical theater. He joined the Theater of Action and later the Group Theater, which is where he met his good friend Elia Kazan. Times were tough and money was tight, but Ray loved the bohemian lifestyle of the close-knit group and enjoyed one of the happiest times of his life. Anybody who met him always noted his intellect and amazing energy. During this period he, along with his fellow Theater Group members, was also active in Socialist/Communist… read more
A subversive, horrific masterpiece, hardly about drug addiction at all. And that beautiful CinemaScope! Just try to find a film with more perfect mise-en-scène, I dare you.
After decades of consumption and uncontrolled expansion, even the American family is struggling to make ends meet.
Camera movement and body placement transcend social class in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life and Raoul Walsh’s Regeneration.
Nick Ray’s genre of everyday life.
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Bigger than Life plays as part of a 15-film series at New York’s Film Forum on July 24th & 25th. *** In a Lonely Place and Bigger than
Dark stuff from Nicholas Ray, who follows “Rebel Without a Cause” with an equally anarchic study of American domesticity and it’s troubling underbelly, trading youth angst for drug addiction and megalomania… read review