Filmsite Movie Review
Giant (1956)
Pages: (1) (2) (3) (4)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Leslie's Visit to Biendecito:

On the drive back to the mansion, Leslie explained to Jett why she had come west to Texas, and they had a heated discussion about the acquisition of the Benedict land from the Mexicans. The trouble-making ranch hand confessed to his dreams of getting away from farm labor while despising the Benedicts for their illegally-acquired land, extreme wealth and arrogance:

Leslie: This is my husband's land. This is his home.
Jett: Who gets hold of this much land unless they took it off somebody else?
Leslie: You're not exactly loyal to your employer, are you, Jett?
Jett: No, I'm not complainin', I'm not complainin'.
Leslie: They bought this land long ago. The Benedicts. They got it though purchase, years ago.
Jett: Bought it? They took it from a bunch of ignorant Mexicans.
Leslie: Why, that's not true, Jett. They bought and traded for Spanish land grants.
Jett: Paid for it all right. They paid five cents an acre. I know my folks was here in Texas long enough to get rich, too. Except they just weren't so foxy.

When they stopped for water at a fenced off waterhole (later dubbed "Buffalo Wallow" - a small plot of land within the 595,000 acre Reata ranch), Jett revealed how he was becoming infatuated with her, and convincingly argued that his reputation wasn't so awful, to gain her sympathy and lure her to his way of thinking:

Jett: I'm not too awful bad now. I got a few friends. Madama likes me. And old Bick now, even old Bick, he likes me a little bit. Well, but they don't like me quite enough to kind of divvy up what they got way too much of.
Leslie: You are an odd one, aren't you, Jett? But I like you.
Jett: I like you, too. I guess you're just about the best-lookin' gal we've seen around here in a long time. I think. The prettiest thing I think I've seen down here.
Leslie: Why thank you, Jett. That's a very nice compliment. And I'm gonna tell my husband I've met with your approval.
Jett: Oh well, now. I wouldn't do that. I mean, well, No, I, ohh. No, I wouldn't do that.

On the way home, they drove through the small ramshackle village of Biendecito - derogatorily nicknamed "beautiful Reata" by Jett - where the poor Mexican laborers at Bick's ranch lived in squalor. [Note: The small town of Valentine, Texas served as the film's Mexican village.]

Jett drove by the large cemetery on the outskirts while he commented about how their living conditions were wretched and the kids were usually sick:

Them's your neighbors live there....Them kids there. Them's your ranch people. Them's Angel Obregon's kids.... They're sure in good shape, ain't they? Whole bunch of 'em sick.

A social reformer at heart, Leslie insisted on stopping and getting out of the vehicle, although Jett discouraged her and sarcastically criticized her: "You are the boss. And you know it, too, don't you?" She entered one of the adobe dwellings where she discovered that Mrs. Obregon (Pilar Del Rey) and her newborn child Angel Obregon II (John Garcia as infant) were seriously ill. The concerned Leslie, with a motherly gesture, picked up the crying baby from its crib, and asked if she had seen a doctor, when Jett came to the door to urge them to hurry along: "You're not supposed to be in there, you know....Old Bick's gonna blow a gasket." Leslie promised to find help and return soon.

Luz's Death:

Back at the round-up, with Leslie unable to object, Luz insisted on riding Leslie's black thoroughbred stallion War Winds, although the cowhand discouraged her: "Nobody ride him but the senora," because the horse had already bucked off Lopez. But the stubborn-headed Luz, trying to reinforce her matriarchal power and authority (and to take out her frustrations on Leslie's horse), ignored him: "I've always ridden what I want to around her for about 30 years." In an extreme close-up view, she cruelly dug her spurs into War Winds' side to try to break the horse and establish her superiority - and to express her hostility toward Leslie: "Suppose you came out here to show me how to run things, too. Let's go!" As she rode War Winds and continued to deliberately spur the animal's flanks to enrage and tame him, the camera was positioned in an extreme long shot. Shortly later, War Winds ominously limped home to the Reata ranch - riderless.

When Leslie drove up with Jett to the ranch house, she saw her injured horse and asked: "What's happened to him? What's wrong?" Inside, Bick was worried about their delayed return. Leslie explained how they had visited the village, and then asked about Luz. According to Bick, she had been riding War Winds - and was bucked from the horse. She was laid out on a sofa in the living room under a large painted western portrait:

He threw her or something....(It's) bad. She hit her head on a mesquite stump. She's been ridin' since she was six. She could ride anything. And now this happens.

Dr. Walker (Max Terhune) reported the serious nature of Luz's injuries to Leslie: "She's in a state of shock. Very serious. Concussion, possible hemorrhaging." Dr. Borneholm (Ray Bennett) had been summoned but by then, it was already too late - Luz passed away and a blanket was drawn up over her body. Her cowboy boots stuck out from under the end of the blanket - symbolizing the end of her western way of life. Bick blamed himself:

If I only hadn't bought that horse... If I hadn't, she'd be alive right now.

While speaking to Dr. Walker, Leslie also mentioned that additional medical care was needed for Mrs. Obregon's sick baby in the village. She strongly recommended being driven there (with the doctor) by Jett, but the overtly-racist Bick immediately rose up and objected to having his Latino employees served by a white doctor:

You can't do that. He can't go there. He's our doctor....All of us. He don't tend those people. They have a way of doin' things by themselves.

Bick at first tried to blame Jett, who was obviously not responsible for advocating medical care for the Mexican employees. Leslie strongly urged Bick to reconsider: "I don't think you quite understand. There's a child who's very sick. I must take Dr. Walker. You'll go, won't you, Doctor? I'll be back just as soon as I can." Before leaving, she stroked the face of her beloved War Winds for the last time.

When Leslie returned later that evening, in the darkness of their bedroom, Bick explained how he had euthanized War Winds because the horse had suffered a broken leg: "I shot him. Bone was broken. Somebody had to do it. I thought it'd be better if it was me." Leslie reported that the baby was alive thanks to Dr. Walker. Although War Winds had been destroyed, Leslie had now acquired control of the domestic life of the ranch.

Luz's Funeral and Bequest of Land to Jett:

Luz's funeral was attended by everyone in the vicinity - one of the mourners Vern Decker (George Dunn) called it the "biggest gathering for a funeral I ever saw in Texas." Cowboy hats covered the sofa where she had passed away. Bick was called away by some of his rich cronies, including Judge Whiteside and Bale Cinch (Monte Hale). In his office-study, he was informed that his "generous" sister, as a dying sentiment, had bequested a little piece of land (part of Reata) to resentful, lowly ranch hand Jett. (Jett was seen outdoors through a window, playing mindlessly with a bolo rope.) It was Luz' last subtle gesture of revenge against Bick. In a minor conspiracy, Judge Whiteside suggested that Bick acquire the willed Reata land from Jett for twice its true value, to keep it in the Benedict family:

She wanted that boy to have something, something worthwhile. Now, that little piece of land is worth $5 - , $600 dollars at most. I'm going to ask you, in reverence to the memory of Luz Benedict, I'm going to ask you to give one Jett Rink a check for twice the value of that land. We can clean up the whole matter right now.

Jett was called inside to negotiate - but already anticipating that he was going to be fired, he responded that he had quit: "I'm afraid I'm gonna beat you to it. I'm quittin'. I lost the one friend I had in this place, and I know it, too. So I quit, I'm dead quit. You don't have to say another word to me." Jett was reassured he hadn't been fired, and urged to come inside to discuss other matters: "Nobody wants to fire you. Now you just come on inside and listen to what we have to say." Bick explained to Jett: "A little piece of luck's come your way" - a small plot of ground, identified as "that little ol' piece we used to call Buffalo Wallow." Bick thought it best to keep Reata "intact within the family," and offered - with Bale's and Whiteside's backing, to immediately purchase the inherited land back from Jett for twice its value, or $1,200 dollars cash. Jett whistled his astonishment at the thought, and was encouraged to take the deal: "You're in the chips now, boy. There it is. There it is, boy. And it's all yours."

With inarticulate thoughts and mumbled reactions, Jett expressed his thanks to them and Luz's generosity as he pondered the deal - and then abruptly declined:

You know somethin', Bick? I don't know but, what - just might not be a pretty good idea to gamble along with old Madama....Just gamble along. Just keep what she give me. I'm sentimental, too, Bick. I just think it's good to gamble along with her. I know that land ain't worth much, but then, uh, someday, I just might up and put my own fence around her and call her Little Reata. See ya.

As Jett left the study-office (closing the door on its stunned listeners), he overheard two conversations among the mourners declaring the importance of land (one of Luz's basic beliefs entrusted to Jett) - to reinforce his decision. He learned that other fellow Texans were being converted from humble and despised hired hands, and transformed into millionaires overnight:

  • Vashti: "There's only one thing on this Earth more important than money, and that's land! Why, I've heard Luz say it a thousand times. Pa said it, and Bick Benedict says it. And it's true!"
  • "On a little-bitty, no-account piece, only we had a run of luck....Why, a gusher come in last year.... Right now, it's bringin' in a million....dollars....a million dollars a month"

Later out on his newly-inherited plot of land ("Little Reata"), the underdog Jett marked and circumscribed the boundaries of his plot of land with large footsteps, and then climbed the tower of a wooden windmill to survey his property. On the small platform at the base of the circular windmill, he sat and looked out at his new possession - as Dimitri Tiomkin's magnificent score boomed. The camera panned right to the cracked, dry soil-bed of his land.

Fundamental Disagreements Between Leslie and Bick Over Male Authority:

That evening, Luz's funeral concluded with Leslie's chat with Uncle Bawley (Chill Wills), who encouraged her to experience all of Texas' country wonders: "See San Antonio, Dallas, Houston....You don't have to hurry, honey. It'll be here when you get around to it. It's been here a long time. And when you see it all and have lived with it as I have, why Leslie, 25 years from now, you'll feel about Texas just like I do....You'll see wonderful things in Texas when you're 50." He assured her that by the age of 50, she would by then have become a part of the state: ("You'll care more. Because then you'll have been part of it all"). In another corner of the room, the wives had been segregated into the background from their husbands, who were sequestered in a circle at the opposite end of the living room.

Leslie was immediately ostracized by the all-male, all-white gathering ("pow-wow") of Bick's good-ol'-boy buddies. They included the leading Texas ranchers, businessmen, citizens and politicians in the area. When she approached the patriarchal group to listen in, one of the men was ordering a Mexican-American migrant camp manager Gomez to "get with it" - pressuring Latino voters to be supportive on election day. Bick was ready to politely rebuff Leslie, after already having experienced some misunderstandings with his new independent-minded wife about her feminist attitudes, her views on male supremacy, her criticisms of the unequal treatment of poor Hispanic families, and her opinions about Texas' political history. He denied her any input into their conversation - and they were soon quarreling about her exclusion from their misogynistic, condescending discussion. Leslie exploded in feminist rage, calling them cave-men:

Bick: We're just talkin' business. Just business.
Leslie: Oh well, please don't mind me. Do go on. I'll be as quiet as a little old mouse.
Bick: You'd be bored, honey. This is dull.
Leslie: Why, I'd be fascinated.
Bick: Leslie, we're talkin' about politics.
Leslie: You married me in Washington, remember, darling? I lived next door to politics. Brought up with it. Please do go on talking. I'd love it.
Bick: This is men stuff...
Leslie: MEN STUFF! Lord have mercy! Set up my spinning wheel, girls. I'll join the harem section in a minute.
Judge: Now, Leslie. Don't you go worryin' your pretty little head about politics.
Leslie: (incredulous) You mean my pretty, empty head, don't you, Judge?...
Bick (rising angrily to his feet): You don't feel well, Leslie.
Leslie: I feel just great! My adrenaline glands are pumping beautifully....If I may say so before retiring, you gentlemen date back 100,000 years. You oughta be wearing leopard skins and carrying clubs. Politics! Business! What is so masculine about a conversation that a woman can't enter into?
Bick: Leslie, you're tired.
Leslie: Perhaps I am.

The other two obedient women in the room, Vashti and Adarene, both dutifully dismissed themselves to go upstairs for their "beauty sleep." Leslie thought they were childish, passive cowards: "That's right. Send the children on up to bed so the grownups can talk," but was forced to retreat with them.

Later in the privacy of their bedroom after the heated, passionate argument, Bick noisily entered, tossed both of his boots to the floor, and confronted Leslie asleep in bed - she promptly apologized for her impolite behavior and for her name-calling: "Oh, darling, I am sorry about my caveman speech. I'll apologize to the others first thing, I promise." He was embarrassed and eager to continue their argument - to establish his male supremacy, although she fought back with her own wit and sexuality:

Bick: That's big of you. You certainly distinguished yourself this evening....They heard you already, every word you said out there. 'We date back 100,000 years!'
Leslie: I said I was sorry about the name-calling. It was very impolite, I know. But in principle, I was absolutely right.
Bick: You come down here, and you try to tell us how to run things, insultin' my friends and everything. Now, you look here, Leslie. You're my wife, Mrs. Jordan Benedict, and I'm asking you right now, when are you gonna settle down and behave like everybody else?
Leslie (she jumped out of bed): (off-screen) Never!
Bick: Who in horn-zollerin' do you think you are, anyhow? (yelling at the top of his lungs) Joan of Arc, or something? (He grabbed his hat and boots to retreat to the adjoining bedroom)
Leslie: Jordan, where are you going? Jordan, take off your hat.
Bick: Carryin' on like Carrie Nation! Preachin' stuff that's none of your business, fixin' the world. Why don't you join a club?
Leslie: Honestly, Jordan. You make me sound just awful. I'm not all that bad. You knew what a frightful girl I was when you married me. I did not deceive you, sir. From the very first moment, I couldn't have been more unpleasant. Anyway, you're stuck with me.
Bick: Yeah, I guess.
Leslie: Honey, take your hat off. (He threw his hat onto the adjoining room's bed) Besides, you love me very much.
Bick: (chauvinistically) Yeah. That fine mind of yours gets pretty repulsive at times.
Leslie: That's not what you told me on the train.
Bick: Now you're gonna throw that up to me. I thought what we, I thought what we said on the train was in confidence.
Leslie: Of course, darling. I'll never forget a single word you said to me. You know, you can be pretty wonderful at times. (She switched off the light) Come on, partner. Why don't you kick off your spurs?

The scene faded to black. They awoke the next morning with Leslie opening the window - and ecstatically exclaiming: "What a glorious, gorgeous, brand-new day! Let's spend every hour of it, just you and I." [Note: There was a discreetly-made connection between the untamed and wild Leslie (similar to the unruly black stallion War Winds, or any mare in heat) with her disapproving temper, and her morning-after calm subservience after having sex and being 'broken-in' by her male partner.]

From off-screen, he replied: "Oh, honey, I'm beat," and admitted that quarreling and 'make-up sex' had wearied him: "That arguin' takes a lot out of me....When we make-up, we make-up, too! Don't we, honey?" He still maintained enough strength, however, to reassert his authority over every aspect of Reata (including her), while raising his voice:

Honey, I want you to understand this. I run Reata at all times....That's the way it is. Everything that's in it and on it is run by me...That's the way it's always been, too. Everything that has a Reata brand on it is run by me....That's the way my father ran this outfit and that's the way my grandfather ran it. All of it. He kept it together for his son, and my father kept it together for his. And I'm keeping it together for mine....All of it, for my son.

When she corrected him - "our son" - she also hinted that she was pregnant - and added that she was bearing the next generation of Benedicts: "Well, better hope this is a boy....Our baby. I just said I'm hoping it's a boy....And our baby is going to be a boy, Jordan. I know it. A boy very much like his father. In many ways, but not all."

The Next Benedict Generation - and Leslie's Determined Social Work:

In the immediately-following next scene, Leslie and Bick were holding their newborn fraternal twins, swaddled in blue and pink blankets:

  • Jordan "Jordy" Benedict III (Dave and Richard Bishop as infants)
  • Judy Benedict (Georgann and Mary Ann Cashen as infants, Dana Dillaway at age 4)

In a letter written to her parents, Leslie described her difficult work at a migrant labor camp to assist young Mexican-American physician Dr. Guerra (Maurice Jara) whom she had hired to provide medical care to the locals in the dusty village of Biendecito. She spoke to the local boss Mr. Gomez and chastised him for the living conditions, calling them a "scandal."

She then drove herself in her convertible to Jett Rink's plot of land where he had erected a fence post entry-gate labeled "LITTLE REATA." The inherited land had a well, a few broken-down windmills, and a modest ranch-house. Leslie noticed that Jett had posted on the wall a torn-out newspaper article of her own wedding announcement, with a picture of her in her wedding dress - to 'decorate' his place: "I thought maybe they'd kind of dress the place up a little bit." She glanced down and saw some self-teaching, correspondence school educational pamphlets on the subject of:

How to Speak and Write Masterly English

As he prepared tea for them, he complimented her on her looks: "Havin' kids seems to agree with you, you know it? You're looking prettier than ever. Just as good, anyway." In the kitchen, Jett took a swig of whiskey to calm his nerves before she complimented him on his "very excellent cup of tea," although he admitted it was terrible. As a maternal nurturing figure, she asked about his marital plans as a way to improve his life: "Don't you need somebody to help you with this kind of responsibility?" He mentioned he might go back East, like Bick had done, to find a wife: "Say, ya got any good-lookin' sisters back there who might be interested in some poor people?" She responded: "Money isn't all, you know?" He chuckled: "Not when ya got it!" And then he stated his racist derision for the people she was aiding at Biendecito, calling them "wetbacks." He prided himself on now owning and working his own land - and having the same racial attitudes as Bick - although he still wanted wealth:

Jett: I'm just as much of Texas as Bick Benedict is. I'm no wetback.
Leslie: Oh, I know that. You're very much like Jordan in that respect. Attitude, everything. But your situation is so different. You're a workin' man.
Jett: Well, that's somethin' I'm gonna try to fix. Someday I will.

As she left his property, Jett noticed oil seeping up through her footprint. [Note: Leslie had become an agent of social and economic change. She had already transformed Bick's life, indirectly caused her jealous rival Luz's death, brought medical treatment to the workers, and now had helped Jett to discover oil on his property.]

When Leslie returned home, she told how she had just visited with Jett ("He made tea. Isn't that unbelievable? He does so want to improve himself"). Bick had already been informed by Gomez of her visit to Biendecito, and was alarmed by her intervention. Disturbed, Bick ordered that she not get involved: "Honey, you can't be tearin' around this place with no regard for who you are, interfering with those people." She was concerned about the continuing scandal of the migrant camp that needed reform, but it threatened to split their marital harmony:

Leslie: You've been a big, powerful rich Texan for 100 years. Why don't you do something?
Bick: I'm not the Red Cross, I'm a cow man.
Leslie: Look, if you won't, I will.
Bick: If you ever go near one of those dumps again, if I ever hear of you gettin' mixed up with this migratory mess, why I ---
Leslie: Just what?
Bick: Why, I'll leave ya! That's what I'll do, I'll leave ya!

Fortunately, their two babies were brought into their arms by the house-maids and tensions subsided. As they each cuddled one of the babies, Bick threatened: "There's one thing you can be sure of. One of these days, I'm gonna run that Jett Rink's hide right out of this country."

The Growing Benedict Family - and Tensions Between Bick and Leslie:

At that same moment, Jett dug into his black, oil-soaked earth and struck pay-oil. Over time, the Benedict family was supplemented with another daughter, named after Luz:

Luz Benedict II (Christine Werner as infant, Wanda Lee Thompson as age 2)

On the 4th anniversary of their twins' birthday, Bick showed favoritism toward his heir-apparent son Jordan Jr. (Steven Kay at age 4) at a celebration held on the front porch at Reata. Bick proudly forecast his cowboy-garbed son's future as his successor at the ranch: "This young fella right over here is gonna grow up to be one of Reata's top hands. I mean, this boy's gonna be the best! He may even grow up to be better than his old man." He presented his frightened young boy with the gift of a pony, although the youngster prophetically reacted to his father's imposed will: "I don't like that, Daddy, " and started crying when placed into the saddle and led around the yard by Angel, Sr. Leslie objected, although Bick was adamant:

I rode before I could walk...He's a Benedict. And he's gonna stay on that saddle if I have to tie a hitch on him to keep him there.

After the ride, the distressed and traumatized young boy eagerly accepted his mother's arms, and preferred playing with his "Country Doctor" kit instead. Angel's own young son Angel Obregon II (David Jiminez at age 5), the infant who had been sick 4 years earlier, skillfully and happily rode the pony back to the corral. Clearly disappointed, Bick forcefully grabbed his son, mounted his own horse with the boy in front of him, and galloped off into the distance. When he returned, he spoke harshly toward his tearful son: "Now, that wasn't so bad, was it, son?"

Later that evening, during a thunderstorm, Leslie's ally Uncle Bawley advised her about the tensions that were developing over Bick's errant child-rearing, his manly tradition of governing his property and its people, and his dispute with Leslie over the future careers of the Benedict children - and he encouraged her to rear her children in her way:

Leslie, Bick knows everything there is to know about runnin' a ranch. Bone, hide and hair. He don't know a dang thing about raisin' kids any more than his father did. So you just stay with it your way and help those children grow up to be what they want to be.

The couple spoke about the distance and frictions growing between them (due to Bick's insensitivity to her efforts at social reform and his insensitive, misogynistic tendencies, especially toward his non-manly son). Leslie (in dark shadows) reluctantly suggested it would be best if they separated with a long visit to her family in Maryland: "What's happening is we're getting on each other's nerves...we're getting in the habit of snapping at each other about things we should've adjusted to years ago. Jordan, I think it would be a good idea if I took the children home for a visit...That's not the way I want it, Jordan...It'll be better for us if we're apart for a while. Better for us and the children. It'll give us both a chance to think things over for awhile...I think it will be best." Leslie and the three young children boarded a train to the East at the Benedict station.

Separated - Leslie In Maryland:

During her sojourn in Maryland, she reunited with her father, and viewed her happily-engaged younger sister Lacey (and fiancee David Karfrey). Preparations were simultaneously being made for their wedding and Thanksgiving celebrations. Leslie spoke with her father about her marital decision to marry Jordan: "If I had it to do again, I'd still walk off with Jordan even if I knew it was gonna end like this."

During a Thanksgiving scene (a turkey named Pedro had been unknowingly fattened up for the feast by the children), Leslie had dressed her children with Indian head-dresses at the dinner table. However, when the young ones realized that Pedro had been roasted for their meal, they began to cry. They were inconsolable, and Jordan shouted out "No!" as the black servant was about to carve into Pedro. She excused herself from the table, and sat with them behind the vertical jail-like rails of the staircase ("It's a day when we're supposed to be happy. Come on now, and smile. Like Mommy").

A letter was delivered to Leslie from Bick - announcing that he missed them very much ("I hope my darlings are all very happy. I want them to know I miss them very much and love each one very much"), but the children continued to cry. Alone at the long and empty dining room table at Reata, a lonesome Bick was served a roasted duck.

He suddenly and unexpectedly arrived (with his Stetson hat in hand) at the front door in the midst of the wedding of Leslie's sister Lacey to David in the living room. He noticed that his twins were serving as flower-children for the service. From the rear of the audience, towering over the others, he observed Leslie participating as the bridesmaid, and listened to the minister's recital of vows (including the crucial phrase: "so long as you both shall live"). After the service as the processional wedding march played, he passionately grabbed Leslie for an embrace, and humbly asked for her to return with him to Reata - although set in his ways, he promised to take her back just the way she was:

Bick: Are you ready to come back to your old, beat-up cowhand?
Leslie: Jordan, I'm - I'm no different than I was when I left.
Bick: Well, we Texans like a little vinegar in our greens, honey. It gives 'em flavor.

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