Bigger Than Life (1956)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  2 August 1956 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 4,582 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 58 critic

A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity.



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


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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Portrait of a man with a habit! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 August 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

One in a Million  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

(optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)| (magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)


Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Marilyn Monroe, who was friends with Nicholas Ray and shooting Bus Stop (1956) at an adjoining stage at 20th Century Fox, shot a brief cameo as a nurse during a hospital sequence. Her scene was deleted because the studio was afraid that Monroe would use this cameo as the second film she owed under her contract. See more »


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 »


Ed Avery: Childhood is a congenital disease - and the purpose of education is to cure it. We're breeding a race of moral midgets.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Great 1950s Subversive Cinema!
2 May 2000 | by (San Francisco, CA) – See 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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