Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Day 59: "The Bad and the Beautiful" "Two Weeks in Another Town"

Director: Vincente Minnelli 1952, 1962
"The Bad and the Beautiful" is a wonderfully entertaining movie about Hollywood, directed by Minnelli, produced by John Houseman, written by Vincent Schnee, scored by David Raksin, headlined by Kirk Douglas. The screenplay disguises real Hollywood characters and their stories (David O. Selznick, Diana Barrymore, Val Lewton, a little William Faulkner), jazzes them up, connects them where maybe there are no connections--and somehow creates a witty, nasty, fast-paced coctktail that dazzles more than half a century later. Added bonuses: Gloria Grahame as a not-so-innocent Southern belle, and Raksin's great music. Even Lana Turner manages a good performance.
Ten years later, the same principals--Minnelli, Houseman, Schnee, Raksin and Douglas--reunited to take another swipe at a movie about film-making. Lightning doesn't strike twice, but "Two Weeks in Another Town" has enough interesting moments to make it worth watching--if, like me, you're curious to see how creative people improve--or don't.
Despite its pedigree, "Town" is not a sequel to "Bad." Here, Douglas is a washed-up actor, summoned to Rome, where a washed-up director (Edward G. Robinson) in making some sort of costume melodrama. Robinson and his wife (Claire Trevor, who played Robinson's moll in "Key Largo" in 1948) are nasty, desperate people. Douglas' character is barely holding on to his sanity. His ex-wife (a wooden Cyd Charisse) is a nymphomaniac. There are complications everywhere. There also are some fine Minnelli touches. Yet as a whole, the film's just not that interesting. But it does move. At one point, Robinson screens "The Bad and the Beautiful." The fiction here is that Robinson's character directed it, and Douglas' character starred in it. When Douglas tells Robinson he's a great director, Robinson says, "I was great once." It's as if Minnelli is talking about himself.
Based on the novel by Irwin Shaw (and someday I'll tell the story of the night my wife and I drank way too much whiskey with Shaw, who was one of the most charming people we've ever met).


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