7.6/10
5,856
57 user 62 critic

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Not Rated | | Drama | 26 October 1956 (West Germany)
A seriously ill schoolteacher becomes dependent on a "miracle" drug that begins to affect his sanity.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

Cyril Hume (story and screenplay), Richard Maibaum (story and screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Certificate: Passed Crime | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

An escaped convict, injured during a robbery, falls in love with the woman who nurses him back to health, but their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Cathy O'Donnell, Farley Granger, Howard Da Silva
Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Rough city cop Jim Wilson is disciplined by his captain and is sent upstate, to a snowy mountain town, to help the local sheriff solve a murder case.

Directors: Nicholas Ray, Ida Lupino
Stars: Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan, Ward Bond
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

After helping a wounded gang member, a strong-willed female saloon owner is wrongly suspected of murder and bank robbery by a lynch mob.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A potentially violent screenwriter is a murder suspect until his lovely neighbor clears him. But she begins to have doubts.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
The Lusty Men (1952)
Action | Drama | Sport
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Retired rodeo champion Jeff McCloud agrees to mentor novice rodeo contestant Wes Merritt against the wishes of Merritt's wife who fears the dangers of this rough sport.

Directors: Nicholas Ray, Robert Parrish
Stars: Susan Hayward, Robert Mitchum, Arthur Kennedy
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

An upper-class widow falls in love with a much younger, down-to-earth nurseryman, much to the disapproval of her children and criticism of her country club peers.

Director: Douglas Sirk
Stars: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead
Hot Blood (1956)
Drama | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Stephen Torino (Wilde), who is tricked by his brother Marco (Adler) into an arranged marriage with tempestuous Annie Caldash (Russell). Annie is willing to give the union a go, but Torino wants none of it.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Jane Russell, Cornel Wilde, Luther Adler
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A commander receives a citation for an attack on Rommel's headquarters, which is actually undeserved as the commander is unfit for his job. On top of that, unbeknownst to him, his wife is having an affair with one of his officers.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Richard Burton, Curd Jürgens, Ruth Roman
Party Girl (1958)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Lawyer Tommy Farrell is a defender of crooks. Vicki Gaye encourages him to go straight, but mob king Rico Angelo insists otherwise.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, Lee J. Cobb
Adventure | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An Eskimo who has had little contact with white men goes to a trading post where he accidentally kills a missionary and finds himself being pursued by the police.

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Yôko Tani, Carlo Giustini
Adventure | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

An ornithologist battles a family of bird poachers in the Florida Everglades.

Directors: Nicholas Ray, Budd Schulberg
Stars: Burl Ives, Christopher Plummer, Chana Eden
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

The most complete, newly restored version of Nicholas Ray's experimental masterpiece embodies the director's practice of film-making as a "communal way of life." Ray plays himself in the ... See full summary »

Director: Nicholas Ray
Stars: Richard Bock, Tom Farrell, Danny Fisher
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
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
Edit

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:

A theme so vital... we urge you to bring all your compassion and understanding to it! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 October 1956 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

One in a Million See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (FMC Library Print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (optical prints) (Westrex Recording System)| 4-Track Stereo (magnetic prints) (Westrex Recording System)

Color:

Color (Color by Deluxe)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The check Ed writes for the dresses at the department store is for $159.95, which would equate to about $1,460 in 2017. See more »

Goofs

When Dr. Norton is looking at Ed's electrocardiogram, he is shown viewing it upside down. See more »

Quotes

Ed Avery: [of wife Lou] It's a shame that I didn't marry someone who was my intellectual equal.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in In a Lonely Place: Revisited (2003) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Warning against prescription-drug abuse, or guerrilla attack on ‘50s complacency?
27 July 2003 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

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.


45 of 65 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 57 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Comedy Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular comedy titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed