7.6/10
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58 user 68 critic

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Not Rated | | Drama | 26 October 1956 (West Germany)
A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

Cyril Hume (story and screenplay), Richard Maibaum (story and screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
James Mason ... Ed Avery
Barbara Rush ... Lou Avery
Walter Matthau ... Wally Gibbs
Robert F. Simon ... Dr. Norton (as Robert Simon)
Christopher Olsen ... Richie Avery
Roland Winters ... Dr. Ruric
Rusty Lane ... Bob LaPorte
Rachel Stephens Rachel Stephens ... Nurse
Kipp Hamilton ... Pat Wade
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Storyline

Schoolteacher and family man Ed Avery, who's been suffering bouts of severe pain and even blackouts, is hospitalized with what's diagnosed as 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, and returns home to his wife, Lou, and their son, Richie. He must keep taking cortisone tablets regularly to prevent a recurrence of his illness. But the "miracle" cure turns into its own nightmare as Ed starts to abuse the tablets, causing him to experience increasingly wild mood swings. Written by Eugene Kim <genekim@concentric.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Portrait of a man with a habit! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 October 1956 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

One in a Million See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)| 4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Color by Deluxe)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Though only Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum are credited for the screenplay, the shooting script was entirely re-worked by director Nicholas Ray and star/producer James Mason, who added the first 20 minutes of the film depicting Ed Avery's daily life before being hospitalized. Re-writes by Ray, his friend Gavin Lambert (who at that time was living together with Ray, recently confessing that they were actually lovers) and Clifford Odets went on all through the shooting process. See more »

Goofs

37 minutes into the movie, Ed is at the bathroom sink and has just replaced the pill bottle in the medicine cabinet. As he closes the cabinet door, the director and the camera are reflected in the mirror. See more »

Quotes

Ed Avery: [of wife Lou] It's a shame that I didn't marry someone who was my intellectual equal.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Contempt (1963) See more »

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User Reviews

Great 1950s Subversive Cinema!
2 May 2000 | by surfbirdSee all my reviews

This film, much like the melodramas of Douglas Sirk, has far more going on than meets the eye. James Mason's character, after getting whacked out of Cortizone (a "Miracle Drug") indeed becomes hysterical and abusive. But he was made ill in the first place by the strain caused his intensely driven lifestyle, where he kept two jobs to finance his family's social and financial ascent.

What the viewer has to watch for is what his character says during his cortizone-induced delusions. His criticisms of his wife, kid, PTA and society in general are over-the-top, but essentially valid. It's a classic narrative device: by allowing a main character a way out of societal responsibility and place (In this case, being bombed on Cortizone), he is allowed to comment on and criticize American society directly without actually threatening the status quo. and in the case of 1950s America, that's a monolithic status quo to criticize.


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