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

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Popularity: ?
Down 12% 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 »
User Reviews:
Warning against prescription-drug abuse, or guerrilla attack on ‘50s complacency? 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 styles
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?

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 »
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:[of wife Lou] It's a shame that I didn't marry someone who was my intellectual equal.See more »
Movie Connections:
Featured in How to Be a Man (2013)See more »


Will Nicholas Ray's 'Bigger Than Life' ever be available on DVD?
See more »
40 out of 58 people found the following review useful.
Warning against prescription-drug abuse, or guerrilla attack on ‘50s complacency?, 27 July 2003
Author: bmacv from Western New York

Bigger Than Life does to cortisone what Reefer Madness did to cannabis. Based on a true report published in The New Yorker, it's an exasperatingly schizoid movie that seems on the verge of boiling over into scalding social satire but stays within the safe confines of its premise – or its gimmick.

Schoolteacher James Mason lives a self-admittedly `dull' life trying to provide for wife Barbara Rush and their son by moonlighting as a cab dispatcher (a fact which he keeps secret but which ends up having no impact on the plot). He's also hiding a series of incapacitating attacks until he's diagnosed with a rare arterial disease, for which the treatment is the new `miracle' drug cortisone.

It works so well he starts popping it compulsively, and soon he's skittering along a grandiose, manic parabola: Tossing around his old college pigskin inside the house, buying haute couture for the mousy Rush, spouting crackpot theories on child-rearing at PTA meetings. Next he's forging prescriptions, whipping his son into shape by withholding meals until the dunce gets his math homework right, and planning a Biblical sacrifice.

The original article had to have focused on the drug's side effects – how its use or misuse can cause psychotic symptoms among some patients. But what should have been a documentary got pumped up into a color potboiler. Somewhere along the way it, like Mason, took leave of its senses – it's like Father Knows Best: The Episode From Hell.

Not only does everyone realize that Mason's flamboyantly deranged, they know why: the cortisone. But in the rigid world of middle-class conformity appearances are paramount, so they act as if nothing is amiss. So even when Mason is tearing around after their son with a pair of scissors while ranting about Abraham and Issac, Rush is still humoring him and whispering into the telephone. She has no trouble eating the faces off his doctors (a detail that's out of character), but with her lord and master she might as well be a Stepford Wife.

Is this a case of Illness-as-Metaphor? Under cover of a drug-scare movie, is Bigger Than Life really a guerrilla assault at patriarchal America in the 1950s? If so, it pulls too many punches (or had its punches pulled for it). As it survives, Nicholas Ray's Bigger Than Life does take a lurid look at a terrifying disorder: Codependency.

Was the above review useful to you?
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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
I wonder if MAD MEN's creator has seen this movie... deering24
Needed Quaaludes instead? dennisvest30
Plot hole? rahul_capri
Inspiration for 'The Shining?' shaggy61
Anyone else a bit disappointed with the end? motherfckzombies-261-668745
inspiration for 'Mutiny' episode of VTTBOTS? jarnoldfan
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