Wednesday, August 27, 2014

248. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: Vincente Minnelli
Written By: George Bradshaw, Charles Schnee
Main Cast: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan
Click here to view the trailer


So Netflix seems to have been converting a lot of their "At Home" inventory from "available" to "save", meaning they're listed on the site but not available. In just the past couple weeks I've seen three films on my queue go to save and it's becoming frustrating, as they're obviously coddling their streaming section and letting their DVD business go by the wayside. Anyway, this was one of the movies that went to save, but thankfully TCM aired it last night so I was able to snag it without too much trouble.

The film revolves around Jonathan Shields (Douglas), a slimy and sleazy, yet intelligent and sometimes with good intentions film producer, whom we first hear of when he makes three phone calls. The three calls are to the top director in Hollywood Fred Amiel (Sullivan), Hollywood's leading lady Georgia Lorrison (Turner) and novelist turned script writer James Lee Bartlow (Powell). During each of the three calls, which begin the film, Amiel and Lorrison both ignore the call and Bartlow accepts the call (coming all the way from Paris) simply to tell Shields to "drop dead". Obviously there's bad blood and as the three are summoned to Harry Pebbel's office, they are enlightened as to what Shields wanted. He wants to make one picture with them, to bury the hatchet. All the audience has yet to find out is what are the hatchet's that need burying? We learn from each individual, one by one what their beef is with Shields. We find out that Amiel met Shields when he was a nobody, working for B movie producer Pebbel (Pidgeon) and using his talents to turn him into an Academy Award wielding super producer. A double cross by Shields to Amiel leaves Fred with a bad taste in his mouth and the two part ways, never to speak again. Then there's Lorrison, a drunk and a tramp, the father of a once great Hollywood actor, whom Shields transforms into the starlet of Tinsel Town, yet betrays her for one night of lust with a wannabe actress. And finally, there's the writer, whom Shields talks into coming to Hollywood to wrote a script, only to inadvertently kill his wife. That's plenty of plot synopsis....

Couldn't find any good images for this movie, but here's one that highlights the falling out scene between Douglas and Turner's characters'. The rage that Douglas is able to bring forth here is scary. 

In the few minutes of research I did on this one, I've seen more than one person compare this movie to Sunset Blvd. My question is why? Even THE BOOK notes that this is the best "Hollywood on Hollywood movie" ever made and even that's a slap in the face to the great Sunset Blvd. To me, "Sunset" is almost a horror film - that wretched old mansion, the plotting Erich von Stroheim, that scary as hell "closeup" that Gloria Swanson was so ready for. While I didn't honor "Sunset" with a TOP 20 nod (or even a Ten Worth Mentioning spot) I did add it to a list of BOOK movies that I want to catch up with again someday and I'm not sure I could say the same for The Bad and the Beautiful. This movie, in most ways, was just a movie - no layers, no particularly special qualities that I could see. Sure, Douglas, Turner and basically the entire cast were at the top of their game and sure the story itself was like three stories rolled into one, with each character having their own, unique relationship to the main one, yet I found the film to be ultimately forgettable. I will say it was nice to get back to old time Hollywood though - those opening titles, that music, the glorious black & white, the over the top yet fantastic performances, Lana Turner in beautiful gowns and even the gorgeous Elaine Stewart bathed in shadows atop a staircase, being a minx.

Was it just me or did the Dick Powell story not have as much "oomph" as the other two? With Amiel and Lorrison, you could argue that "yes, Shields did them wrong, but he also made them what they are", while with Bartlow, he was already a success when Shields met him, not to mention the fact that forgiveness was going to come a lot harder, considering Shields was in a way responsible for the death of Bartlow's wife. No, I just didn't take to the Powell story that much at all and while we're at it, I felt that the Lorrison story sort of bogged down the whole production. I was totally onboard with the film right through the Amiel plot line, even picking up on the obvious Val Lewton/Cat People references.

I will say, while I wasn't blown away by the film, I did notice certain devices in play that really struck me as somewhat innovative. The way they had the comment cards start out with "It Stinks", only to reveal that was the only one that said such an insult. The way Douglas kicked off his shoes and gave himself a foot massage in every story. The way they had the Shields' character empahsize how the audiences' imagination was such a pivotal part of the script, during one of Bartlow's rewrites. All of these little touches struck me as interesting and only helped to try and pull me a little further into the story. Only thing is, I wasn't budging for the most part. I didn't hate it or anything, but to me it was just a smidgen above average and ultimately another loss for Kirk Douglas, whom I love, yet can't find a movie of his that I really like.

RATING: 5.5/10  A '6' is probably more suitable, but that also seems a bit high, so we'll drop it a half a notch and call it a review.


August 27, 2014  2:46am


  1. Sorry, not much to say about this one..
    I have seen it twice, as I really didn't like it te first time, but felt I should!
    Second time round was much better, but still failed to delight me. I'd maybe go to a 7..

    1. Yeah, I couldn't go THAT high. Although Douglas was great!


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