Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) marries Texan cattle baron Bick (Rock Hudson), but a life of nothing to do but watch cows being branded and eat calf brains doesn't appeal, so she channels her energies into bringing up her ghastly kids and helping the disadvantaged Mexicans. Jett Rink (James Dean), secretly in love with Leslie, becomes Bick's great rival when he strikes oil.
Edna Ferber's novel was adapted by Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffatt for this would-be Gone With the Wind-style epic. As the title suggests, this is a big film: three hours long, grand emotions, vast landscapes and important themes like family, racism and the march of time. But the reason for this film's cult lies in its cast, in particular Dean. It is he who provides the film with its iconic images, such as standing with the rifle across his shoulders, or striking oil on his land.
But while Taylor and Hudson do well with strong characters, Dean's seems underwritten, and he's not in the film enough. Unfortunately one of the best characters, Bick's sister, as played by Mercedes McCambridge, leaves the film early on after venting her frustrations on Taylor's horse. How come the children of two brunettes like Hudson and Taylor are blondes like Dennis Hopper and Carroll Baker? And what the hell is Dean saying in his speech to the empty hall near the end? All in all, a good Sunday afternoon film, but don't expect the time to fly by. Music by Dmitri Tiomkin.