Thursday, August 28, 2014

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL


"I'm gonna ram the name of Shields down their throats!"

Judy and I watched THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952) last night and loved it. I first saw it many years ago with my movie buddy Kelly Greene. It was one of the first films we watched together and we both enjoyed it. The line of dialogue quoted above (and spoken by Kirk Douglas in the film), has stayed with both of us over the years. In fact, when Kelly was making his outstanding film ATTACK OF THE BAT MONSTERS, we often joked that he was going to "ram the name of Greene down their throats!"

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, like SUNSET BLVD. (1950) and ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), takes a look behind the scenes of  show business (in this case, a Hollywood movie studio) and reveals some of the darker truths about the film industry. Masterfully directed by Vincente Minnelli, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL features a great cast, a terrific screenplay by Charles Schnee (based on the novel Tribute to a Badman by George Bradshaw) and a memorable score by David Rashkin. It's darker than the standard Minnelli fare of musicals and comedies and a few scenes in the film (especially the ones between Douglas and Lana Turner), have a whiff of noir.

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is the story of boy wonder film producer Jonathan Shields (Douglas), whose father was one of the early giants of the motion picture business. Shields is determined to make a name for himself in Hollywood and he does so by utilizing the talents of three people: director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), actress Georgia Lorrison (Turner) and screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell). All three are contacted by Shields at the beginning of the film and asked to meet in the offices of producer Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon). From there, the film is broken into three separate story lines with each character narrating their own tale about their experiences with Shields.

In each flashback, Shields is revealed to be a complex man. One minute you like him, the very next second you hate him. He does right by all three characters at first before turning on each one in the end. But, as producer Pebbel points out, all three got their start thanks to Shields and all three went on to have successful careers after their associations with Shields came to their respective ends. The last shot of the film implies that the trio will overcome their deep-seated animosity towards Shields and work with him one more time.

There are lots of inside Hollywood references in the film. Shields himself can be seen as an amalgamation of David O. Selznick and Orson Welles. When Shields and Amiel are set up by Pebbel to produce a grade-B horror film called THE CAT MAN, they decide to ditch the men in cat monster suits and focus more on what's not seen on the screen. This is a direct reference to RKO producer Val Lewton and his classic horror film THE CAT PEOPLE (1942). Leo G. Carroll and Kathleen Freeman appear to be analogues for Alfred Hitchcock and his wife/assistant Alma. Georgia Lorrison is the daughter of a "great profile" actor like John Barrymore whose daughter Diana's film career was launched the same year as her father's death. Screenwriter Bartlow may have been based on writer Paul Eliot Green, who wrote The Cabin in the Cotton.  

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL received six Academy Award nominations including Best Actor (Douglas), Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame, winner), Best Black and White Art Direction (winner), Best Black and White Cinematography (winner), Best Black and White Costume Design (winner) and Best Adapted Screenplay (winner).

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is a first rate film. It's well written, directed and acted and enormously entertaining. It's head and shoulders above the similarly themed Minnelli/Douglas collaboration TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN (1962) (which I reviewed here late last year).  Oh, and it features the smoking hot Elaine Stewart in a small role. Highest recommendation.

2 comments:

  1. Isn't "Two Weeks In Another Town" a sequel to THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL? Great review, by the way. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is a movie I never miss when it's shown on TCM.

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Derrick. TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN is not a sequel to THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. It's based on a novel by Irwin Shaw but it certainly has much in common with B&B. Vincente Minnelli directed it. Kirk Douglas stars as a washed up movie director who gets out of a sanitarium at the beginning of the film and then goes to Rome to work with his old friend Edward G. Robinson on a pot boiler. Douglas reclaims his creative juices but he's threatened by suicidal ex-wife Cyd Charisse. It sounds better than it is and is nowhere near as good as THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL.

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