Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Bad And The Beautiful (1952)

The Bad And The Beautiful (1952) ★★★★★ 5/5

This movie reminds me a lot of Sunset Boulevard (1950) in many ways. Mostly because of the narrative style, and in some ways because of the underlying darkness to the film. Much like Sunset Boulevard it is a story of Hollywood. A Hollywood that the public doesn't get to see. The film is essentially three stories tied into one that all revolve around Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), a movie producer paving his way through the top of the industry at the expense of other people's lives.

Shields first comes across a promising director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) who he takes in and begins to collaborate with. They excel in writing B rate movies and producing them at a low cost. Together the two reach a point where they can take on a big budget film. When they go to get it made, Amiel finds himself excluded from the project. This betrayal ends their relationship.

Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) is the daughter of an A list movie star who has passed. She herself has ambitions to be a star. Her auditions and screen tests are flops. Nobody wants to hire her with the exception of Shields. He fights to get her a starring role and with his coaching she becomes a huge box office star. Stardom at this point is no longer her real concern. She has fallen in love with Shields and he leads her on to believe he loves her. Little does she know he is just making her feel this way to get a solid performance from her. When the film is released, she leaves the premier to be with Shields only to find he has moved on to the next starlet aspiring for success. From that moment on she refuses to speak to him.

The third story is that of a prominent screen writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell). Shields buys his most successful piece of work and brings him and his wife to Hollywood to write for him. Bartlow is often distracted by his wife (Gloria Grahame) and so Shield arranges her to fly to Mexico with sexy actor Victor "Gaucho" Ribera (Gilbert Roland) in order to give Bartlow some time alone. However the plane Gaucho and Bartlow's wife were in crashed and the two killed. In the years to come, Shields is quite about the fact he arranged for the two to be on that fatal plane ride. When Shields slips and reveals it was his ideal, Bartlow walks out.

The film closes with Bartlow, Lorrison and Amiel all listening to Shields on a phone. His career has tanked and he is looking for help from the three people who he used to build his career. All of them are highly successful despite Shield's betrayal. This final scene is fantastic as it recalls an earlier scene in the movie where Shields tries to take his hand at directing and is told that the less dialogue is in a scene the more imagination the viewer has in imagining what is being said. In this final scene, we can not hear what Shields is saying over the phone, but the expressions on the three listening allows the viewer to think about what may have been said. It is a brilliant ending.

Lana Turner was wonderful in this film. To see an actress acting as if she didn't know the first thing about acting is very intriguing. We see her character develop from an insecure, alcoholic girl into a graceful, exquisite movie star. She is graceful and beautiful on the screen. Kirk Douglas is also perfect in his role. While he is completely despicable in his actions, his character still retains a suave likability to him.

I absolutely loved this film. The plot, the story, the narration and the behind the scenes look at Hollywood were all highly enjoyable. This is a movie worth seeing, especially for the final scene where the audience is reminded that sometimes no dialogue does in fact say more then what any actor could. I also liked reminding my self that Kirk Douglas is still alive and that he is one of our last links to the Golden Age of Hollywood. Great movie!

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