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

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Overview

User Rating:
7.6/10   4,098 votes »
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Down 52% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Director:
Writers:
Cyril Hume (story) and
Richard Maibaum (story) ...
(more)
Contact:
View company contact information for Bigger Than Life on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
2 August 1956 (USA) See more »
Genre:
Tagline:
The story of the handful of hope that became a fistful of hell! See more »
Plot:
A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Awards:
1 nomination See more »
NewsDesk:
(68 articles)
User Reviews:
Could have been a chiller See more (52 total) »

Cast

  (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:
Runtime:
95 min | 91 min (FMC Library Print)
Country:
Language:
Color:
Aspect Ratio:
2.55 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Mono (optical prints) (Westrex Recording System) | 4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)
Certification:
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?

Trivia:
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 »
Goofs:
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 »
Quotes:
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 »
Movie Connections:
Featured in How to Be a Man (2013)See more »

FAQ

Will Nicholas Ray's 'Bigger Than Life' ever be available on DVD?
See more »
9 out of 15 people found the following review useful.
Could have been a chiller, 10 May 2008
Author: Igenlode Wordsmith from England

I finally caught up with this film at the National Film Theatre after missing it at least twice on late-night television broadcasts -- and I suppose by that point I had inflated expectations. But I'm afraid I actually felt rather let down.

Praised for its 'taut' 95-minute length and lauded as a 'searing critique' of 1950s American middle-class society, "Bigger than Life" certainly wasn't supposed to be boring; and it does indeed have a tense psychotic climax near the end. It did seem to take an awfully long time to get there, though, and judging by overheard conversation on the way out, the snoring from the row behind, and the surreptitious rearrangements of limbs around me in the hot auditorium, I wasn't the only one to feel that way...

The film came across as falling between two stools; I wasn't certain if it was being presented as a realistic social drama or an exploitation horror/ thriller. Considered in the latter light, it would obviously carry an awful lot of tedious excess baggage, but as a social/medical exposé it seems massively overwrought, and the ending (studio-imposed?) sits ill with either. Moral issues of quality of life -- is it better to lose the patient physically or mentally? -- appear to be flirted with briefly and then abandoned in favour of all-out psycho thrills.

Under a different director, the material might have made for a good horror movie. With a different treatment I can see it as a 'social issues' film in the old style, like "The Black Legion" or "Dead End" (both of which are also effective thrillers in their own right)... and I can just about grasp how it has been portrayed as a black-comedy satire on an American family stereotype. But despite the presence of the talented James Mason (often looking bizarrely flattened as the film attempted to contort him into an ultra-widescreen frame that I found frankly off-putting -- perhaps the weird visual constructions were a deliberate attempt to set the viewers' world on edge?) I couldn't feel that the existing picture was really satisfactory in any of these fields, let alone in a theoretical synthesis of all of them.

I'd say that its most effective strand is probably in the treatment of the final weekend as straight-out chiller tension in the style of Kubrick's "The Shining", as the central character becomes increasingly irrational. (Kubrick's version in particular, since his adaptation shares the same issue in that it's hard to keep any audience sympathy for a character acting weirdly when you can't see inside his head -- he becomes pure monster, losing a potential dimension thereby.) Elsewhere, there seem to be too many elements tossed into the mix and then apparently abandoned: Ed's taxi work, the attractive young teacher, money issues (I'm sure there's supposed to be some sub-plot about the orange dress, but whatever that strand is boiling up to, it never appears on-screen), forging prescriptions, school and parent politics -- the film keeps on throwing fresh strands in with a scattergun effect, but doesn't tie them together. Maybe it's realism, in that real life doesn't match up to the neat significance of Chekhov's first-act gun: but as drama it left me feeling pulled through a hedge backwards.

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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
Plot hole? rahul_capri
Inspiration for 'The Shining?' shaggy61
Anyone else a bit disappointed with the end? motherfckzombies-261-668745
I wonder if MAD MEN's creator has seen this movie... deering24
inspiration for 'Mutiny' episode of VTTBOTS? jarnoldfan
Cortisone is an excuse ***spoilers*** chapmanshomer
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