7.6/10
6,582
60 user 69 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 »
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2 nominations. See more awards »

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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 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 story of the handful of hope that became a fistful of hell! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The main manufacturers of cortisone at the time, Merck in the US and Glaxo in the UK, were worried about the impact of this film would have on the public and their willingness to take the drug if prescribed by their physician. However, by the time of this film's release, newer and better formulations of the drug, along with greater knowledge of its uses and limitations had reduced (but not eliminated) the side-effects experienced by Ed in this film. See more »

Goofs

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

Quotes

Ed Avery: Childhood is a congenital disease - and the purpose of education is to cure it.
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Connections

Referenced in American Beauty (1999) See more »

User Reviews

 
Best Manic Depressive portrayal
5 February 2006 | by HEFILMSee all my reviews

A fast moving gutsy view of what happens within a family when one member becomes manic, in this case from prescription drug addiction/ abuse. A subject that only became widely talked about years and years after this groung breaking film. Pointed out as the last film director Ray made that was set in "modern" times. The end of a cycle for him and one that was personal to Ray who struggled with addictions and troubled home life.

There are two other reviewers who need a bit of a lashing. One innocently enough thinks that Barbara Rush, is Barbara Bel Geddes. Another one thinks the situation of the home craziness being kept at home is wrong and unreal of dated. Sorry Charlie, you've got some of your facts about the plot wrong and you've never seen this kind of craziness.

I've personally seen this kind of Manic behavior in real life and this is one of the best, probably the best representation of it ever on the screen, including the religious mania aspects. If you find these aspects funny, they are in their horrible absurdity, very true to the way these manias attach themselves to Manic Depressive behavior. This movie mostly concentrates on the manic side of it.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen or in widescreen. James Mason is a good as he ever was, and he was awfully good many times. This is a great movie on many levels and his performance is one of the best put on film. What restraints were forced on the movie by the era it was made in, actually make it better and more scary than a film which can show vomiting and other drug side effects. This is psychologically horrifying. This emotional craziness is grim enough on its own and makes it all about the drama of the situation rather than the hype and tabloid parts.

The scenes with the son dealing with his own father's behavior are especially unsettling and moving. The whole cast is good. Matthau fans will find him perhaps not getting to show all he can do here,but he's good as the buddy character.

Pretty much everything works in this film, you can pull symbols out of it if you want, there are plenty to find, but it plays out as fascinating reality.

This films reputation is good, but it needs to be more widely seen.


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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

26 October 1956 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

One in a Million See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

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

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
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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
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