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Bigger Than Life (1956)

Not Rated  |   |  Drama  |  2 August 1956 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 4,381 users  
Reviews: 53 user | 57 critic

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

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(story), (story), 5 more credits »
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Title: Bigger Than Life (1956)

Bigger Than Life (1956) on IMDb 7.6/10

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Cast

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 ...
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:

The Motion Picture You've Been Hearing About ... Reading About ... And Talking About! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

2 August 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

One in a Million  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

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

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The young actor playing a cameo role as a student drawing a picture of a man who is angry with his mother (when Ed briefly covers a class for a co-worker) is Jerry Mathers, who would go on to play Beaver Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver (1957) a few years later. See more »

Goofs

When Ed cuts the telephone cord to the phone his son is using, it created an "off the hook" state on the line, and Lou could not have placed a call with a different phone. See more »

Quotes

Ed Avery: God was wrong!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in What's My Line?: Episode dated 29 July 1956 (1956) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
The effects of a miracle drug
27 December 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

James Mason becomes "Bigger than Life" in this 1956 Nicholas Ray film that also stars Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau. Mason plays Ed Avery, a schoolteacher who also is a part-time cab dispatcher. He is suffering from severe spasms that are getting worse. He learns that he has a terminal illness that perhaps can be cured with a steroid, cortisone. He is helped, but he also begins to suffer from mood swings and depression and, as he takes more and more, veers completely out of control. Barbara Rush plays his suffering wife, and Walter Matthau is a family friend and coworker.

I actually had a family member who went into profound depressions because of continuing to take black market cortisone, so this film resonated with me. Mason, who produced the film, is terrifying. Barbara Rush is very good, though her character puts up with an awful lot before she makes a move. Matthau is good in a supporting role, but roles showcasing his true strengths as an actor were a few years away.

This is much more than a cautionary tale about steroids, which need to be taken and tapered off very carefully. In his cortisone-induced mindset, Ed Avery spouts off on the problems in society, very unusual in the repressed '50s. His ideas are a tad over the top, but there's a good kernel in them. Ray always did well with a rebellious mindset.


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