This is Texas Originals. From Humanities Texas, for the advancement of heritage, culture and education.
In the 1920s and '30s, Edna Ferber was one of the most widely read writers in America. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1924 novel So Big. Another of her novels, Showboat, became a popular musical and a hit film. But perhaps no other work of Ferber's is remembered as well—at least in Texas—as Giant.
Published in 1952, Giant tells the story of a young Virginia woman named Leslie Lynnton who marries a wealthy Texas cattle rancher. Readers see Texas through Leslie's critical eyes.
Texans' excessive spending and the state’s "mania for bigness" are not overlooked by Leslie. She also points out the ranch's success depends on Mexican laborers, who are poorly paid and badly treated.
The Dallas News called Giant "a slander on Texas," and the Texas Observer pronounced it a "richly-conceived and rottenly written book."
But Giant became a success—as did the 1956 movie filmed in Marfa starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, whose character was based on the flamboyant Houston oil tycoon Glenn McCarthy.
The film was especially popular in Texas. Giant set attendance records at Dallas's Majestic Theater. One reviewer wrote, "Giant was the biggest witch’s broth . . . to hit . . . Texas since the revered Spindle blew its top."
Once hailed as one of America's greatest writers, Ferber's critical status has since faded. But her Texas epic remains a landmark in the state's cultural history.
More information about Edna Ferber and other Texas Originals is available at Texasoriginals.org. This program is produced by KUHF Houston Public Radio and Humanities Texas, with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.