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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.