IMDb > Bigger Than Life (1956)
Bigger Than Life
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Bigger Than Life (1956) More at IMDbPro »


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7.6/10   4,774 votes »
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Popularity: ?
Up 24% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Cyril Hume (story) and
Richard Maibaum (story) ...
View company contact information for Bigger Than Life on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
2 August 1956 (USA) See more »
The story of the handful of hope that became a fistful of hell! See more »
A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
1 nomination See more »
(74 articles)
User Reviews:
Time to re-re-evaluate Nicholas Ray? See more (54 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

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 ... Nurse

Kipp Hamilton ... Pat Wade
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Dee Aaker ... Joe (uncredited)
David Bedell ... X-Ray Doctor (uncredited)
Gail Bonney ... Mother at PTA Meeting (uncredited)
Harold Bostwick ... Gentleman (uncredited)
Mary Carroll ... Mother at PTA Meeting (uncredited)
Virginia Carroll ... Mrs. Jones (uncredited)

Mary Carver ... Saleslady (uncredited)
Betty Caulfield ... Mrs. LaPorte (uncredited)
Lewis Charles ... Dr. MacLennan (uncredited)
George Chester ... Janitor (uncredited)
Richard Collier ... Andy - the Milkman (uncredited)
Fred Dale ... Male Nurse (uncredited)
Nan Dolan ... Dr. Norton's Nurse (uncredited)
Nestor Eristoff ... Parent (uncredited)
George Ford ... Parent (uncredited)
Alex Frazer ... Clergyman (uncredited)
Grace Hayle ... Mother at PTA Meeting (uncredited)
Bill Jones ... Mr. Byron (uncredited)
Colin Kenny ... Churchgoer (uncredited)
Wilbur Mack ... Churchgoer (uncredited)
Eve March ... Mother at PTA MEETING (uncredited)
Thomas Martin ... Cab Dispatcher (uncredited)
Portland Mason ... Nancy (uncredited)
Natalie Masters ... Mrs. Tyndal (uncredited)

Jerry Mathers ... Freddie (uncredited)
Mary McAdoo ... Mrs. Edwards (uncredited)
Renny McEvoy ... Mr. Jones (uncredited)
Joseph Mell ... Frank - the Cab Dispatcher (uncredited)

Sid Melton ... Cabby (uncredited)
Joe Merritt ... Husband (uncredited)
John Monaghan ... Sam - the Cabby (uncredited)
Eugenia Paul ... Saleslady (uncredited)
Paul Peters ... Gentleman (uncredited)
Gladys Richards ... Lab Nurse (uncredited)
Mary Margaret Robinson ... Child (uncredited)
Gus Schilling ... Druggist (uncredited)
Ann Spencer ... Nurse (uncredited)
Hal Taggart ... Churchgoer (uncredited)

Directed by
Nicholas Ray 
Writing credits
Cyril Hume (story and screenplay) and
Richard Maibaum (story and screenplay)

Burton Roueche (article in The New Yorker) (as Berton Roueché)

Gavin Lambert  uncredited
James Mason  uncredited
Clifford Odets  uncredited
Nicholas Ray  uncredited

Produced by
James Mason .... producer
Original Music by
David Raksin 
Cinematography by
Joseph MacDonald (director of photography) (as Joe MacDonald)
Film Editing by
Louis R. Loeffler  (as Louis Loeffler)
Art Direction by
Jack Martin Smith 
Lyle R. Wheeler 
Set Decoration by
Stuart A. Reiss (set decorations)
Walter M. Scott (set decorations)
Costume Design by
Mary Wills (costumes designed by)
Makeup Department
Ben Nye .... makeup artist
Helen Turpin .... hair stylist
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Eli Dunn .... assistant director
Sound Department
W.D. Flick .... sound
Harry M. Leonard .... sound
Ray Bomba .... sound editor (uncredited)
Ralph Hickey .... sound editor (uncredited)
Visual Effects by
Ray Kellogg .... special photographic effects
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Charles Le Maire .... executive wardrobe designer (as Charles LeMaire)
Editorial Department
Leonard Doss .... color consultant
Music Department
Lionel Newman .... conductor
Edward B. Powell .... orchestrator
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
95 min | 91 min (FMC Library Print)
Aspect Ratio:
2.55 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (optical prints) (Westrex Recording System) | 4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)
Finland:K-16 | UK:X (original rating) | UK:12 (tv rating) | UK:12 (video rating) (2006) | UK:12A (re-rating) (2003) | USA:Not Rated | USA:Approved (MPAA rating: certificate #18042) | West Germany:16 (f)

Did You Know?

Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.See more »
Factual errors: 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 »
Ed Avery:God was wrong!See more »
Movie Connections:
Referenced in American Beauty (1999)See more »


Will Nicholas Ray's 'Bigger Than Life' ever be available on DVD?
See more »
9 out of 14 people found the following review useful.
Time to re-re-evaluate Nicholas Ray?, 6 January 2009
Author: tentender from France

(Written after my second viewing of this picture: first viewing, Museum of Modern Art, NYC, some years ago; today's viewing at Film Forum, NYC) I went to see this film today with some excitement, but also some trepidation. It had made an impact on first viewing, but, apart from memories jogged by stills seen in the interim, little had stuck with me -- perhaps just a vague recollection of a balls-out James Mason performance. (In that I was not disappointed.) This film has long been a keystone in Nicholas Ray's reputation, being viewed as a bold tale told with the full resources of Technicolor and CinemaScope. Well, it's in Technicolor (actually DeLuxe Color) and Cinemascope. But it's not much of a tale, and it's not told very well. Ray's cinema, it's true, has some impressive moments, often in color and 'scope. Certainly "Johnny Guitar" is a near-masterpiece, "Rebel" is filled with great things (and some very obvious Freudian mumbo-jumbo), "Party Girl" (my favorite Ray)'s unsuppressed violence spills over into its visual world with a fabulous abandon, "King of Kings" is by far the best of the (generally miserable) late 50's/early 60's epics, and, in black and white, "In a Lonely Place" is a complex, beautiful film. But Ray has serious weaknesses as well, and they are abundantly clear in "Bigger Than Life." As a piece of story-telling, first of all, it is clumsy, and, surprisingly, in its first 45 minutes, even stodgy (even though the script is reputed to have been "entirely reworked" by Ray and Gavin Lambert). And very stodgily staged (the scenes with the three doctors are fairly excruciating), like some of Sirk's drearier moments. There is a real lack of feeling for how people actually move and speak. It's true that, once Mason is in high-gear on cortisone, the temperature of the film rises considerably, but the reactions to him are scripted in unbelievable fashion. One finds oneself feeling superior to the characters in a way that can't have been intended: they are acting stupidly when we are supposed to believe they are doing the best they can (or at least normally). Barbara Rush (as Mason's wife) looks very pretty, but has no life of her own. Obviously this female submission is intended as a 'critique of contemporary mores', but the film has not created a world of its own wide enough to sustain such a wide-ranging critique. All in all (I really can't bear to go on) this feels like a "social problem" film gone wildly astray. Ray was clearly (and, let me add, commendably) interested in and committed to worthy (liberal) causes, but neglected his obviously real gifts as a film artist. (Whether he had great gifts as a film storyteller is another matter, perhaps.) But I think to compare him to Otto Preminger, among others, and find Preminger wanting is the height of folly. Sure, Preminger made some bad pictures, but almost all of them are in the post-1966 post-studio period, when NOBODY seemed to be able to make a good picture. Ray had made his last film by then, having made a mess of "55 Days at Peking" (which turned out fairly well anyway, though finished by others) and become unhirable (drug and alcohol abuse being the culprits). It's sad, but it's time to look at the pictures themselves. "Bigger Than Life," "Wind Across the Everglades" (disastrous in almost every respect), "Hot Blood" (weak, though enjoyable) are not great pictures, despite their "Nick Ray" branding. And that thing that Win Wenders made is hard to forgive...

Incidental notes: Gus Schilling, who had played the druggist in "The Magnificent Ambersons" some fifteen years previously, plays a similar role here. And the milkman here is the same actor (Richard Collier) as the milkman in "The Girl Can't Help It" and a dead ringer for the milkman in "Imitation of Life" (David Tomack)!

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Message Boards

Discuss this movie with other users on IMDb message board for Bigger Than Life (1956)
Recent Posts (updated daily)User
Wife was psychotically helpless? Bman777
Plot hole? rahul_capri
I wonder if MAD MEN's creator has seen this movie... deering24
Needed Quaaludes instead? dennisvest30
Inspiration for 'The Shining?' shaggy61
Anyone else a bit disappointed with the end? motherfckzombies-261-668745
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