The Bad and The Beautiful

What a hidden gem! Long before we had The Player and The Big Picture (not to mention Bollywood's severe fascination with navel gazing) there was The Bad and The Beautiful (1952), a film that unflinchingly showed the inner workings of Hollywood. I expected to see loads of expedient affairs, backstabbings, arguments and on-set fights and they're all here, courtesy of a crackerjack script by Charles Schnee working off a short story by George Bradshaw. What I didn't expect was the film's original approach. Instead of taking the viewpoint of genius producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), the film elects to tell his tale through three of his former associates (Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell). Jonathan's successive betrayal of each of them only adds further layers of complexity to the portrait of a man who just lives for film, so much so he cannot face anything else after a production has wrapped. As an aspiring actress grappling with the shadow cast by her illustrious father, Lana Turner is mesmerizing but Kirk Douglas still manages to steal every scene with her by sheer force of his personality. The film won several Academy Awards, the most deserving of which was for the screenplay and the most inexplicable for supporting actress (Gloria Grahame playing a southern belle, perhaps benefiting from the holdover effect of Vivien Leigh's performance in A Streetcar Named Desire two years earlier).

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- April 13, 2005 9:31 PM // Film , Review