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Directed by Nicholas Ray

United States 1956 95 mins.

Moving to 20th Century Fox for this indictment of traditional masculinity in the American home — in addition to the perils of substance abuse under a pearly-white façade of self-improvement—Ray continues to hone his storytelling ability, here focusing explicitly on the crisis of the American Dream. Ed Avery (James Mason), a schoolteacher and father, begins experiencing debilitating pain, and, told he has only months to live, begins an experimental treatment with cortisone. But when his pain diminishes, Avery continues on the cortisone, transitioning to an abuser of the drug, which threatens not only his career but also his family and, ultimately, their safety. “In their intricate imbrications of star text, iconic Americana, and insinuating directorial commentary, [Bigger Than Life and films like it] systematically subverted the reassuring conventions of classical Hollywood.”—Paul Brunick, Film Comment.



The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.