DocumentaryFilm

Return to Giant celebrates 25 years, June 3, 2021, 7 pm

Twenty-five years ago a documentary premiered at SXSW that showed what it was like to be on the set of the Warner Bros. classic, Giant with James Dean, Rock Hudson out in tiny Marfa, Texas. That summer of 1955 went on to inspire a stage play (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean), a film (Fandango) and a TV series (Dallas). 

Now you can see what happened, in the very spot where it happened, when the Hotel Paisano presents a screening of the award-winning documentary, Return To Giant, on Thursday, June 3, at 7:00 p.m in the Hotel Paisano ballroom. A Q&A with the filmmaker will take place following the documentary.

Winner of “Best Documentary” at the Lone Star Film Awards and an official entry into SXSW’s 1996 documentary competition, Return To Giant takes a touching look at the last days of James Dean as he spent his time on the Evans Ranch outside Marfa. Narrated by native Texan and the lead singer for The Eagles, Don Henley, the documentary contains many never-before-seen photos and home movies shot on the Giant set by Marfa residents. It also contains the only interview with the late Dennis Hopper about his part in the movie, as well as his Warner Bros. screen test for the role of Jordie Benedict.

Unlike most films, Giant was shot on an open set. This meant anyone willing to drive out to the Evans Ranch could watch the day’s filming, then view the rushes in one of Marfa’s downtown movie theaters with director George Stevens. Because 1955 was decades before digital photography and the Internet, Return to Giant uses the photos and 8mm home movies shot by Marfa locals to capture the era.

Return to Giant is currently available in an edited form on the Warner Home Video DVD of Giant, but the version to be screened at the Hotel Paisano is the same one that screened at SXSW in 1996 and on PBS. It contains about three minutes cut from the Warners DVD release, and is what is referred to as the “director’s cut.”

This 25th anniversary screening at the Hotel Paisano will deliver an experience, for the film fan, not just a movie, It’s one thing to watch a documentary at home, or in a theater, but it’s another to watch it in the very same place where Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean ate their meals, drank, and sang cowboy songs every night.

“It’s all there, Texas riding high and handsome,” as the late historian Dr. Don Graham, says it. (Dr. Graham is also a featured interviewee in the documentary.)

The screening will take place in the ballroom of the Hotel Paisano in downtown Marfa, Texas. Cost is $15 per person. For more information, visit the event site https://www.eventbrite.com/e/return-to-giant-25th-anniversary-screenng-tickets-150032909471?aff=ebdssbeac.

Read the New York Times review of Return to Giant.