Bigger Than Life

This film is your life before you lived it.

– Susan Ray to her husband

After the Second World War was won, America crowned itself king of the world. To uphold its title and maintain its triumphant afterglow, the nation had to create new enemies. But with Fascism eradicated, America struggled to find itself a new scapegoat. Now that the world was purged of “evil”, the only place for America to turn was inward. And so, the House Un-American Activities Committee was formed, dedicating itself to separating us from them. These paranoiacs asserted themselves as the new moral authority and, taking dead-aim at Hollywood, persecuted Communists and non-Communists alike, shattering one life after the next, and all in the name of America. Unbeknownst to him, Joseph McCarthy became America’s philosophical leader, a tyrant born and bred on the home turf. And so, as one Fascist rallied against another, the nation found itself in the midst of civil war.

Meanwhile, the Cold War sent a chill over Hollywood. With the Paramount Decrees of 1945, the studios lost its production, distribution and exhibition monopoly, and the Industry was thrown into crisis. Television posed an additional threat to Hollywood, keeping people comfortably out of the cinemas. But there was a way out: new cinematic technologies were developed, designed to add freshness to the movie-going experience. With 1953 comes The Robe (Henry Koster) in CinemaScope and Kiss Me, Kate (George Sidney) in Cinerama. In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock releases Dial M For Murder in 3-D and, in ’55, visionary producer Mike Todd develops his 70mm system for Oklahoma! (Fred Zinnemann). The kooky gadgets of William Castle come later; in ’59, The Tingler delivers its shocks via subterranean wiring, sending more than one audience member into cardiac arrest.

Into this climate came Berton Roueché’s The New Yorker article, “Ten Feet Tall”, describing the horrific side-effects of the drug cortisone on a New York City school teacher – alias Robert Lawrence – suffering from a fatal inflammation of the arteries (periarthritis nodosa). Chief among these incidents was the development of certain tyrannical tendencies, maniacal acts played out upon Lawrence’s family and young students. But in 1955, the year the article was written, the drug was only five years old, and hailed as a resounding miracle. “The number of diseases”, notes Roueché, “upon which it has been reported to have at least some analgesic impact now approaches the galaxial.” What follows is a matter-of-fact account of a medical tragedy.

The director Nicholas Ray was intrigued, and so too was James Mason, who, as one of the film’s producers, brought the project to 20th Century Fox, where he had a steady three-picture deal. “I got some writers to work on it”, Mason recalls, “but Nick wasn’t too sure.” According to Mason, Ray had a difficult time articulating what he felt was wrong with the Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum first draft; Bernard Eisenshitz suggests it may have been the script’s flat documentary approach – a fashionable concern of the period. Ray summoned British film critic Gavin Lambert to work as his “personal assistant”, a position that offered him considerable opportunity to integrate himself into the production. “To the director [I was] a combination of ideas-man, judge, encourager, and all the rest of it.” In this case, “all the rest of it” meant a behind-the-scenes writer (Lambert’s work on the film wasn’t given screen credit). According to Lambert, pressure from certain American medical organizations had contaminated the drama and, with a tamed script, the whole basis of the film was sadly compromised.

But what was that basis? Commentators differ in their ideas as to what drew Ray to the film. While Lambert suggests that Bigger Than Life (1956) was for Ray “a chance to make a comment on the ‘wonder drug’ madness that afflicts America”, Geoff Andrew maintains that it was Ray’s frustration about the low wages paid to American teachers, while Eisenshitz cites the director’s “obsessive concern with anything permitting the manipulation of individuals”. With such a wide diversity of targets, it is no wonder scripting misfired. “Nick wanted re-writing to be done but he couldn’t say exactly what it was”, remembered Mason. “He is a person who can’t express himself in words very well.”

Bigger Than Life

Soon thereafter, the playwright Clifford Odets was called upon to bring cohesion to the mishmash. Odets worked closely with Ray – perhaps too closely – often going behind the backs of studio executives, submitting pages to shoot without studio approval. As one might expect, this got the production into a bit of trouble, but nothing Mason (as star and producer) couldn’t fix. With the watchful eye of American Medical Association looming over the set, Mason took the liberty to defend Odets’ revisions, suggesting the addition of “off-screen lines […] to correct the impressions that they were objecting to”. The scene in question – Odets’ contribution to the film – was the picture’s final scene, which included the now famous recounting of the Abraham Lincoln dream. The synopsis the studio sent to the Production Code Administration contained the following summary of these, the film’s final, moments:

As Ed’s eyes open, his face contorts into sane emotion, and in his expression there is recognition, remembrance, remorse, relief – and love for his small son. Confident that he can live a normal life with the new drug and the love of his wife and son, Ed and his family leave the hospital – this time for good.

For a studio synopsis – a document intended to communicate plot, and plot alone – this paragraph is curiously interpretive. The description of Ed’s emotional transformation (complete with the alliteratively melodious “recognition, remembrance, remorse, relief”) is a matter of one man’s opinion and, therefore, totally irrelevant to the chain of narrative events. Also, describing the son as “small” seems excessively sentimental. In fact, earlier in the synopsis, the detail “Lou breaks into tears” was cut – a bold pencil-line drawn through the text – a reminder that, in this context, psychological portraits are out of place. Why then has the writer taken this liberty here? Perhaps it was to draw attention away from the ending’s more ambiguous implications. (Ray ultimately cut the part about “Ed and his family leave the hospital.”) Here, the reader is forced to acknowledge Ed’s repentance in a way the filmgoer is not.

If this was an attempt for the studio to slip touchy material passed the Production Code Administration, it was certainly successful. In a letter to producer Frank McCarthy dated 4 January 1956, Geoffrey Shurlock, Director of the PCA, wrote that the script “seems basically acceptable under the provisions of the production code”, citing only two potentially problematic occurrences: the night shirt gag (“we could not approve the suggestion that Ed was exposed from the waist down”) and the use of the exclamation “Oh, God!” (“the expression does not seem reverent and we suggest that it be reconsidered”).

The final draft of the script was submitted to the PCA on 18 April the same year. The note about “Oh, God!” remained, except that in this version of the script, the line was changed to “Oh, my God!”, which apparently was still insufficiently reverent for Shurlock. In addition, the PCA noted that “care will be needed with the kiss [between Ed and Lou in the hospital] that it not be offensively lustful, neither of course, should it be open mouthed”. In fact, many of Shurlock’s warnings were of this sort, gently advising the filmmakers on how to go about handling their material. Surprisingly, there were no outright objections. For the PCA, the film was morally sound: all who suffered were redeemed and, according to their observations, every character was given a rating of “SYM” for sympathetic. They even go so far as to check the box “Happy Ending”.

According to the Production Code files, Bigger Than Life comes out looking benign. The only crime the censors saw depicted in the film was forgery, and the only bit of violence a fistfight. The box indicating a protagonist “inefficient or dishonest in the performance of his professional duties” is left un-checked. But wait: was Avery inefficient or dishonest? No, he wasn’t; he was just radical. Thus, it seems the moral ambiguity of the film’s main character miraculously evaded the PCA, a testament to Ray’s deft slight-of-hand. Having created a man who so nimbly walks the line between teacher and tyrant, Ray duped the censors into thinking the film was somehow less controversial than it really was! Ironically, the critics reacted in precisely the same way – the film’s psychological nuance was lost on them, too – and, objecting to precisely what the PCA had encouraged, they renounced the film on the grounds that (according to James Mason) “the leading character was an average American man”, the kind of man who, unbeknownst to them, Nicholas Ray was objecting to as well.

Bosley Crowther, the film critic for The New York Times, was more than disappointed in the film; he was offended. He wrote:

To ask a paying audience to sit for almost an hour and watch somebody go through a painfully slow routine of becoming intoxicated from taking too much cortisone is adding a tax of tedium to the price of admission.

Clearly, a simple thumbs-down was insufficient.

Crowther’s review was typical of the critical response to Ray’s film. Most of those writing on Bigger Than Life at the time of its release seemed to take an almost perverse delight in dismissing it. One smarmily clever byline from Commonweal reads, “The Malady Lingers On” (an observation that might be better applied to the article that follows it). Writing in The New Yorker, John McCarten notes how “with hypochondriacs outnumbering the robustious by two to one, this picture should churn up a lot of interest”, and ultimately concludes that “all hands certainly made a hash of a good thing”. The article in the Saturday Review saves its most charming remark for its closing sentence, snickering “the film lives up to its title only by being in CinemaScope”, but it is the journal Films in Review that featured the pathetic, un-constructive observation, “Bigger Than Life will definitely not entertain you” (italics not mine).

All in all, one gets the feeling that critics were not only disappointed in the film, they were mad at it, doling out reprimands like a heart-broken mother to her naughty child. This approach to film criticism – in which the author’s emotional response trumps the analytical – suggests a kind of latent animosity towards the filmmakers. But why? Had Bigger Than Life transgressed? If so, were its transgressions a testament to its great achievement, or rather (as contemporary critics suggested) a threat to fashionable ethos of the times?

Writing for America magazine, the critic Moira Walsh speculates on the motivation behind the filmmaker’s story choice:

The subject of narcotics is an eminently saleable screen commodity and since that topic is still taboo the baleful effects of miracle drugs is the next best thing.

Like many of the other critics, Walsh was less compelled to critique the film’s cinematic elements than she was the validity of its story, which in the end, she determined, was “under-endowed with common sense”. It goes without saying that a film as controversial as Bigger Than Life will undoubtedly evoke discussion of this kind, but, when the hullabaloo over material becomes the cornerstone of a criticism, one wonders at the possibility of a latent discomfort in the mind of the 1950s critic.

Arthur Knight’s review of the film opens with a blatant admission of this controversy:

After all the fuss kicked up over The Man With the Golden Arm [Otto Preminger, 1955] the studios seem to be coming around to the viewpoint that a little controversy is a healthy thing.

Damning the studio’s “eye for box-office returns” becomes a device by which the critics could distance themselves from their subject (drug addiction) and, regarding it as they did, allowed them either the license to dump the film outright, or, by attacking the integrity of those who made it, the ability to avoid having to even address the film at all. On the subject of integrity, one critic remarked how:

James Mason, who produced the film as well as starred in it, seems to have been swayed in his choice of theme by an actor’s natural predilection for a fat part.

Once again, we have a critic concerned with the moral reasoning behind the film’s production – as if it had any relation to its filmic attributes!

Rather than discuss Bigger Than Life’s more cinematic qualities, these critics wash their hands of analysis entirely, devaluing the film because of the so-called believability of its plot. Time and again, the critics single out screenwriters Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum as primarily responsible, claiming their facts “insignificant” and filled with “medical nonsense”, even going so far as to question “why an intelligent man […] would frivolously ignore his doctor’s solemn warnings”. Obviously, objections of this kind to the film’s lapses of verisimilitude do not address its worth as a filmed drama. (Ironically, Variety praised the script for its realism.) The offended critics object to the film on behalf of the medical profession, claiming as Crowther did that they might take umbrage with the casting of “cortisone as an intrinsically monstrous villain”. (What film were they watching?) Time quotes one medical critic as having remarked, “They could have made a movie about a man drinking himself to death on too many gallons of plain water – that’s possible too.”

Why the insistence on medical accuracy? Why were contemporary critics so deeply concerned with the film’s “reckless” assignation of blame? It appears they all failed to identify the cortisone as what Geoff Andrew calls the film’s ironic “miraculous panacea”. Andrew writes:

Ray did not intend the film to be about cortisone per se and explained that its real subject was the danger and folly in believing in any kind of miraculous panacea, whether it be drugs, drink, money, psychoanalysis or religion.

Bigger Than Life

In fact, Bigger Than Life shows us Ed Avery (Mason) resisting his world even before he takes the drug; it’s in his boredom (see the bridge game), it’s in his stress (see his job at the taxi terminal), it’s in the ordinary emptiness of his family life (see his wife). And so, the medication doesn’t turn him into a beast à la Dr Jekyll, it only accentuates the turmoil that has always existed within him. For Ray (and this is what the critics missed), cortisone was just the catalyst.

Of course, critics like Geoff Andrew have the benefit of fifty years hindsight. Unlike the film’s contemporary opponents, Andrew explores Bigger Than Life’s myriad artistic components. He has does not reprimand the film for its use of cortisone (quite the contrary; he applauds it), and does not take issue with Ray’s melodramatic tendencies, attributing them to the film’s “emotional intensity – a result, partly, of the taut economy of the narrative”. After all, the notion of the Melodrama has only recently begun to be explored as its own valid genre.

Now, with the reconsideration of directors like Douglas Sirk and the application of (gasp) irony, “melodrama” isn’t the dirty word it once was. Initially, film studies criticism used the term pejoratively to connote unrealistic, pathos-filled, campy tales of romance or domestic situations with cliché-ridden characters intended to appeal to female audiences. Understandably, these were considered to be lesser films, sentimental pap churned out by the Hollywood tear-jerk machine. And if one couldn’t look beyond these tropes – if the viewer were unable to see through them – they might find themself (like many critics of the 1950s) unjustly unwilling to give credit where credit is due.

Sirk, for example, a contract director working mostly at Universal, was known for turning out dizzy romantic fiascos; glossy and kitsch, excessive and (sometimes) silly, these dependable studio projects were routinely panned by critics and “sophisticated” audiences. What these viewers missed was the subversive strain running through Sirk’s art. He wasn’t just making a melodrama, he was using it. Even the critic James Harvey admits to “missing” Sirk the first time around, remembering his biggest hits, Written on the Wind (1957) and Imitation of Life (1959), to be “unredeemably bad”. But twenty years after its release, Harvey returned to Imitation of Life and found himself overwhelmed.

My awareness of even a possible ironic intention seemed to transform the movie for me. As it had, it seemed, for the audience around me, who were responding to it in a way no imaginable 1950s audience could have: being alert and to and amused by every hollow ring in Lana Turner’s multi-costumed, leading-lady performance, for example, just as I was being. We had become an audience for the “Sirkian subtext”, as it was called. And we were no longer (as we had been years before) jeering alone. This time even the director was on our side.

And so there is the Melodrama and there is the melodramatic. The trick is to figure out which is which.

It is in his use of irony that Nicholas Ray’s melodrama veers away from the Sirkian. Bigger Than Life is kitsch-less; we never jeer and, if we do, it isn’t at the film, but at the hokey 1950s ethos. Unlike Lana Turner in Imitation of Life, there is no actor in Ray’s film whose lack of talent becomes one of the director’s foot-holes. Thus, Bigger Than Life is tricky: it doesn’t undermine the genre (as Sirk would have); it explodes it, challenging its audience to take notice. If Melodrama is the malady the film suffers, it is only because we suffer from it. The many excesses of Bigger Than Life (namely those in Avery’s character) serve to criticize the dangers of a life lived in submission, just as they warn against a life lived too big. And the film is big! Its expressionistic lapses and hard-hitting music cues enhance its unapologetic emotionalism, creating an unrelenting intensity not fashioned from pap, but from the intelligent man’s reaction to the horrors of middle-class American life. Like Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in Network (Sidney Lumet, 1976), Ed Avery is mad as hell. What’s melodramatic about that?

Looking back, Andrew Sarris observed that the 1950s marked a new era in film criticism. The shift, he says, occurred when the “deft integration of image, sound, and narrative” was no longer taken for granted. The Hollywood classicism of the ’30s and ’40s gave way to a “disturbing discordance between visual style and narrative flow” which, he added, “no one illustrated more dynamically than Nicholas Ray”. It comes as no surprise then that audiences and critics alike struggled with the work of such an iconoclast, especially in the 1950s, an era renowned for its approbation of conformist thought (not to mention its surplus of cinematic gimmickry and hi-jinx). Ironically, a filmmaker as staunchly individualistic as Ray couldn’t have come at a better time. This was this was his moment, the perfect opportunity to challenge the philosophical malaise of the American zeitgeist, what James Harvey calls “the burden of banality, the falsity and underlying desperation of American bourgeois life”.

For critic Robin Wood, this banality is the source of Ed Avery’s breakdown. Like the other advocates of Bigger Than Life, Wood suggests that “the role of the drug in the film is purely functional: it removes all inhibitions and releases the urges that are already present in Ed.” In other words, the seeds of Ed’s breakdown are planted well before the medication is introduced. We see him awash in grandiose aspirations from the outset, but they do not appear as such; rather, they are held in check by his own social restraint. Consider, for example, the fact of his two jobs. He wants more than his life can offer him, but he is ashamed of it (he keeps his job at the cab company a secret from his wife). He is bored, restless, longing for the old days of his athletic super-stardom (the football is placed on the mantelpiece, the locus of domestic fortitude). In short, he is a modern-day Bovary, a man of admirable middle-class dreams like any other. The cortisone merely shakes his complacency.

Revolution ensues. Ed Avery, in all his ordinariness (the surname sounds “average”), reaches for the extraordinary. Like many figures of tragedy, Avery lets his hubris get the better of him and his attempt to assert his superiority begins. Clearly, his wife is dumb and his child weak-willed. The mania carries into his professional life, inspiring in him thoughts of intellectual supremacy. His plan to write a series of brilliant articles on education sets the stage for his tyrannical performance at parents’ day. But he is not alone. An anonymous father voices his support. Obviously Ed isn’t the only unsettled man in his world. This moment begs the question: Is Ed really crazy?

As audience sympathy begins to shift from pitying Ed to fearing him, so too does that of his family. We see him as a visionary, yes, but with a dangerous vision. The delicacy with which Ray handles this transition from dad to demon is so masterful it is hard to identify even his own feelings towards the character. Does Nicholas Ray condone this behaviour? Certainly not. Rather, he condones the philosophy behind it – and this is classic Ray – that a man should resist the limitations of his society; he should fight, flee and pave the road ahead in the name of Individualism and Non-Conformists everywhere. (It is no surprise that he would later make a film about Christ.) The question of Ray’s point of view is a difficult one precisely because, unlike his “hero”, the director doesn’t proselytise.

Bigger Than Life

Bigger Than Life is a success (and a controversy) because it rarely judges Ed. With few exceptions (among them the famous Expressionistic shadow of Ed looming over his son), the film – contrary to what its early opponents suggested – is a model of restraint. The action on the screen is often heavy-handed and extreme, yes, but it is countered by moments of sublime detail and intricacy. The milk episode, for example, and the shopping spree are as quietly unnerving as any of the best moments from Hitchcock or Fritz Lang. Mason’s performance, which Sarris calls “one of the majestic conceptions of the modern cinema”, runs the gamut of bigger than life to simply life itself, containing within it the miniscule pressures of the everyday, and gradually, very gradually (this, I think, is the key), snowballing into the super-human. Avery’s intimations of the extraordinary are well suited to Mason’s British accent, lending his speech a feeling of otherness that gently places him just beyond the reach of those around him. Without this performance, the film would lack the humanity essential to its success. After all, Mason has created a monster to be feared, but even more, a man to be pitied.

In 2000, American Heritage magazine, forty-four years after dismissing it, voted Bigger Than Life one of the most underrated films of all time. One can speculate ad infinitum, and still it is difficult to understand how American critics have so dramatically changed their stance on the film. The same is true for the whole of Ray’s filmography, constantly fading in and out of fashion, never quite fixing itself a proper resting place. Will these films always remain problematic? Perhaps that’s what brings critics (and audiences) back; there is always more room for new ideas in Ray, always more questions impossible to solve. Even Jean-Luc Godard, the man who so famously decreed “the cinema is Nicholas Ray”, had second thoughts on the subject:

The whole cinema and nothing but the cinema, I was saying of Nicholas Ray. This eulogy entails a reservation. Nothing but the cinema may not be the whole cinema.

Sarris puts it more simply: “Nicholas Ray is not the greatest director who ever lived, nor is he a Hollywood hack.”

Although the question of Ray’s genius has proven itself difficult to answer, time has been kind to the director. Thanks to the writers of the Cahiers du Cinéma – the greatest of film fans – Ray’s auteur status has been (mostly) unchallenged and growing ever surely since his death. Critics may argue over what kind of an auteur Ray was (Ray, probably, would prefer it that way), but it is undeniable that Ray’s life – perhaps even more so than his work – has come to represent that of the auteur. Like Ed Avery, Ray was one of Hollywood’s great iconoclasts, fighting his way through a system renowned for it Conformism. Ultimately, he elected to leave it all behind and make films on his own. A true independent, he paved the way for filmmakers like John Cassavetes and Jim Jarmusch, whose work might have more staying power, but whose dreams were made possible by Ray, the consummate fighter, an artist among philistines.

With Bigger Than Life, Ray’s artistry has arguably reached its highest potential. The film’s focus on the classic battle between man and society is quintessential Ray and, perhaps more so than any other film of the era, it was (and continues to be) Hollywood’s most damaging indictment of the so-called American dream. Like Ray’s greatest films – Johnny Guitar (1954), In a Lonely Place (1950) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955), among them – Bigger Than Life is mixed-mode movie, crossing easily (and eerily) from Melodrama into G-rated family film, from tragedy to “documentary” and even to psychological suspense. The film thrives off of its genre-crossing, time and again subverting audience expectations and, like Ray’s own career, it undergoes a continual process of reinvention, modifying, challenging and ultimately threatening its very own truths. What exactly we feel about Ed is never set. The curious blend of our pity and fear alternately lures as it repulses us, further complicating the viewers’ relationship with their own character identifications.

Bigger Than Life

If James Mason makes us uncomfortable, he has done his job. If he has disappointed or angered us, it is only because he has broken our heart. Like the Averys, we have been led down the seemingly tranquil road to domestic bliss only to find it littered with detours and debris, what has been promised to us has not been delivered. Contemporary audiences were resentful of this narrative betrayal; many wrote it off to Ray’s own ambivalence to his material. Today, we have the benefit of fifty-years re-examination. “The movie improves with (my/our) ageing”, says Geoff Andrew, noting the film’s unflinching (sometimes even horrible) exploration of the “wisdom that comes from the recognition of one’s own mortality”. If Andrew attributes Avery’s “madness” to his new wisdom, then it is possible that what we initially thought was mania is nothing but total clarity and insight.

Twenty years after the film’s release, Ernest Becker in his incendiary The Denial of Death would write:

[…] we are beginning to acknowledge that […] the contemplation of the horror of our inevitable death is, paradoxically, the tincture that adds sweetness to our mortality.

He adds, “The basic motivation for human behavior is our biological need to deny the terror of death”, which he calls “the vital lie of character […] the defense that protects us from the painful awareness of our helplessness.”

Becker elaborates:

Since the main task of human life is to become heroic and transcend death, every culture must provide its members with an intricate symbolic system that is covertly religious. […] The root of humanly caused evil is not man’s animal nature, not territorial aggression, or innate selfishness, but our need to gain self-esteem, deny mortality, and achieve a heroic self-image. Our desire for the best is the cause of the worst.

Cortisone has nothing to do with it. Ray was right. God was wrong.

Works Cited

Geoffrey Andrew, The Films of Nicholas Ray (London: British Film Institute, 1991).

Anon, “Cinema: Bigger Than Life”, Time, No. 68, 6 August 1956, p. 53.

Anon, “Bigger Than Life”, Variety, No. 203, 15 August 1956, p. 6.

Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997).

Peter Biskind, Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood Taught us to Stop Worrying and Love the Fifties (New York: Owl Books, 2000).

Bosley Crowther, “Screen: Tax of Tedium; Bigger Than Life has debut at Victoria”, The New York Times, 3 August 1956, p. 11.

Bernard Eisenschitz, Nicholas Ray: An American Journey (London: Faber & Faber, 1990).

Philiip T Hartung, “The Screen: The Malady Lingers On”, Commonweal, No. 64, 10 August 1956, pp. 466-7.

James Harvey, Movie Love in the Fifties (New York: Knopf, 2001).

Arthur Knight, “SR Goes to the Movies: It’s Controversial”, Saturday Review, No. 39, 28 July 1956, p. 24.

Gavin Lambert, “Good-bye to Some of All That”, Film Quarterly, No. 12, Fall 1958, pp. 25-9.

James Mason, Before I Forget (New York: H. Hamilton, 1981).

John McCarten, “The Current Cinema: So Sad, So Sad”, The New Yorker, No. 32, 11 August 1956, p. 50.

Sheridan Morley, James Mason: Odd Man Out (New York: Harper Collins, 1989).

Rui Nogueira, “James Mason Talks about His Career in the Cinema to Rui Nogueira”, Focus on Film, No. 2, March–April 1970, pp. 18-36.

Berton Roueche, “Ten Feet Tall”, The New Yorker, 10 September 1955.

Jonathan Rosenbaum, “Circle of Pain: The Cinema of Nicholas Ray”, Sight and Sound, No. 42, Autumn 1973, pp. 218-21.

Andrew Sarris, “Films in Focus: The Acid Test of Auteurism”, Village Voice, No. 26, 11-17 November 1981, p. 43.

Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema (New York: Da Capo Press, 1996).

Moira Walsh, “Films”, America, No. 95, 11 August 1956, p. 452.

Robin Wood, “Film Favorites: Robin Wood on Bigger Than Life”, Film Comment, No. 8, September–October 1973, pp. 56-61.

About The Author

Sam Wasson studied film at Wesleyan University and the University of Southern California. He calls Los Angeles home. Los Angeles doesn’t call back.

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