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A Tale of Three Betrayals
bkoganbing9 March 2005
Producer Jonathan Shields is in big trouble on a production and reaches out to three people he's befriended and betrayed in the past for help. All three are brought to Harry Pebbel's office where he makes a pitch for the help of each one. And we're told in flashback the dynamics of the relationships between Shields and each one.

One thing about Tinseltown, they've never been afraid to show the seamier side of movie-making. Kirk Douglas's Jonathan Shields is a not too thinly disguised version of David O. Selznick. The same drive, the same ambition, the same overwhelming ego that Selznick was legendary for is a part that was tailor made for Kirk Douglas.

The three betrayed people, director Fred Amiel(Barry Sullivan), star Georgia Lorrison(Lana Turner), and screenwriter James Lee Barlow(Dick Powell)all ring very true. One of the things I like about this film is that all three stories, each in itself, could be expanded into a film all it's own.

Lana Turner's role as the ersatz Diana Barrymore is not to hard to spot either. It's so much better here than the film based on her own book Too Much Too Soon. If that voice of Turner's actor father on those 78 rpms she's playing sounds familiar, it's that of Louis Calhern. Turner's was a life lived out all too well in the tabloids and she brings all of it to bear in playing Gerogia Lorrison.

Dick Powell, who was offered the lead as Jonathan Shields, opted to play tweedy professor turned screenwriter James Lee Barlow. This was Powell's next to last feature picture as an actor, it should have been the one he went out on. Powell was always ahead of the industry's cutting edge and he decided to concentrate more on directing and acting for the small screen.

Powell's segment includes Gloria Grahame as his flirty wife. Post World War II Hollywood, whenever it had a part for a tramp, first call Gloria Grahame. Here she responds with an Academy Award winning performance. She hasn't many scenes, but as was said in another MGM picture around that time, what there is is cherce.

I don't think there's ever been an actor who can go from zero to sixty on the emotional scale as quickly as Kirk Douglas. Check the scene when Lana Turner discovers how Douglas betrayed her. The intensity of his reaction alone is frightening and real. Douglas was also up for an Oscar, but it went that year to laconic Gary Cooper in High Noon.

Vincente Minelli put all the pieces together just right and it comes out great entertainment.
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Making movies
jotix10016 June 2005
"The Bad and the Beautiful" takes a look at Hollywood. This incisive take about how movies are made, directed by Vincente Minnelli, dares to go behind the scenes to show what goes on in the way the film industry operates. The film adaptation by Charles Schnee gives us a good idea of that unreal world of fantasy and hype.

At the center of the story is Jonathan Shields, a young man with connections to the industry. He wants to follow his father's footsteps and goes at it vigorously, making friends and enemies along the way. Jonathan discovers he can be ruthless whenever he wants. His first victim is Fred Amiel, the talented director who Jonathan bypasses in favor of a more established one. Jonathan quickly forgets the friendship Fred and his wife showed him before becoming a big producer.

Then there is there is Georgia Larrion, the boozy daughter of a famous actor. Jonathan shows how he wants Georgia to succeed in the business, personally taking care of selling her to star in his big project, only to betray her with another woman, a glamorous bit player. When Georgia discovers the truth, she flees Jonathan's mansion in a clear night that suddenly turns into a torrential downpour and loses control of the car, but she doesn't suffer a scratch!

The last victim of Mr. Shields is the Pulitzer prize winner, James Lee Bartlow, who Jonathan coaxes into leaving his academic life to adapt his own novel for the movies. James is married to the flighty Rosemary, in whom Jonathan discovers a weak link that will do anything to hobnob with the celebrities. Jonathan makes it easy for Rosemary to fall into an affair with the star of Shields' film.

When we first watched this film, it seemed much better, than on this viewing where a lot of things surface to make some of the story much weaker than before. Some viewers have compared this film with the fate of Orson Welles in Hollywood, and there are a couple of references that could be interpreted that way. Whether it was so, or not, it's up to the viewer to guess where the truth lies.

Kirk Douglas gave a strong performance as Jonathan Shields. Mr. Douglas showed he clearly understood who this man was. He runs away with the film, in our humble opinion. Lana Turner, a beautiful presence in any movie, is good, but at times she appears to be overwhelmed by the range of emotions she has to project, especially with that phony car scene.

Dick Powell and Gloria Graham put in an excellent appearance as the Bartlows. Barry Sullivan disappears after Lana shows up, not to be seen until the end. Walter Pigeon is effective as the studio head. Gilbert Roland is perfect as Gaucho, the Latin actor with a lot of charisma.

Mr. Minnelli shows he wasn't afraid to portray the industry the way we see it in the film, not a small accomplishment, knowing well how it could have backfired on him. Hollywood is not forgiving to those who dare to show its ugly side and that's when the parallel with Orson Welles problems with the system and eventual exile can be drawn.
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Entertaining backstage business
moonspinner5516 April 2006
Glossy MGM soaper has many things to recommend it, not the least of which is a surprisingly grounded, natural Lana Turner (looking great, even in ordinary jammies) playing a successful movie actress who, along with a top screenwriter and director, help producer-on-the-skids Kirk Douglas stage a comeback. Not especially revealing about Hollywood, which at this stage wasn't quite ready to unmask itself, but still engaging and intriguing. Douglas is well-cast (he spits out his lines with a terse jaw--nothing new--but he's right for this part and is commendable). Turner is a revelation and deserved at the very least an Oscar nomination for her work; the picture did go on to win Academy Awards in five categories, including Gloria Grahame as Best Supporting Actress; Charles Schnee, Best Screenplay; Robert Surtees, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White; and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White. Well-directed by Vincente Minnelli, the picture gets less attention than something like "All About Eve", but it's actually more entertaining. *** from ****
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show biz can't satisfy anyone
lee_eisenberg12 March 2007
One thing that I've always wondered is why no one looks at Hollywood more negatively than Hollywood itself. But whatever the reason, "The Bad and the Beautiful" pulls no punches in looking at its topic. The movie portrays some people explaining how they used to be friends of producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) but have since turned against him. There's the director whom Shields promised a directing job but betrayed him, the writer who lost his wife to Shields's actions, and the actress whom Shields drove to madness.

I thought that one of the most effective scenes in the movie was Kirk Douglas holding Lana Turner in his arms. Here he is, this overbearing, hostile character forced to almost coddle his gorgeous female star; it might be showing how he may seemingly have exalted her, but he remains in a higher position and is merely using her and sending her into insanity. And the scene of her driving the car while completely upset elaborates on this idea.

And then, there's the writer. He and his wife move from Virginia hoping to get really big in Hollywood...until tragedy strikes. It all goes to show the disaster inherent in any industry (of course, Douglas's character exacerbates any problem). But anyway, this is a formidable part of cinema history; a precursor to movies like "The Player". Also starring Dick Powell, Walter Pidgeon and Gloria Grahame (who won Best Supporting Actress).
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Citizen Shields
CMUltra14 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is the way ensemble casts and biopics should work. Similar to "Citizen Kane" in style (though not quite at that level in quality), "The Bad And The Beautiful" presents us with the character of Jonathan Shields (Douglas) as seen through the eyes of four people who worked with him.

I'm not sure who the Shields character was based upon. I believe his character was actually an amalgamation of several producers and directors. You certainly get to see a lot of the traits producers have become infamous for.

However, these traits are all presented through the eyes of others and, as such, we are never sure what truly made Shields tick. We can only guess by putting together the different viewpoints and that is pretty much true to life.

The cast did a great job with director Amiel (Sullivan) starting things off. The performances were not terribly deep or wrenching, but the story didn't really call for it. Lana Turner was very good as the starlet living in her father's shadow, but I'm not sure why she received top billing. Gloria Grahame did win an Oscar for her supporting role, which was surprising. The role was barely significant enough to be "supporting". She was, as always, very charming in it though.

Overall, an excellent slice-of-Hollywood-life disguised as a biopic. It will make for a fun viewing with characterizations you can think about for weeks to come.
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a movie that embraces the Hollywood studio machine while putting a harsh criticism of it
Quinoa19846 October 2006
That one line summary makes me sound like I'm calling the Bad and the Beautiful a case in 'tough love', where director Vincente Minnelli wags his finger at what happens to some people (cough, David O. Selznick, cough), while also showing too the joys of working in the business. But it's a business at its most booming time, coming out of the 40s where the producer was king, and the director had to vie for room at times to really get his vision in. Here the producer Jonathan Shields is played by Kirk Douglas as someone with big ideas at first- he even has an idea to help make a scary movie about cats even more frightening by not showing the cats (echoes of Val Lewton). Soon he rises the ranks and becomes big enough to really call the shots all he wants, but it also gets in the way of personal relationships, severs ties, and sometimes even makes him out to be monstrous (there's one shot I remember all the time where Douglas, in a big fit of anger against Lana Turner's character, seems like he's a whole foot taller with the ego almost manifested). The narrative of the film is a retelling by people who knew him, a sexy but soon disillusioned actress, a director who once worked with Shields but then got cut off from him, and a writer played by Dick Powell. Rashomon or Citizen Kane it is not in trying to reveal more grandiose and amazing things about human nature, but rather a supreme rumination on the good times and the bad times, possibly more of the latter. What's great about Douglas's portrayal is that through the stories from the three ex-friends and co-workers and lovers, he becomes a very well-rounded character. At the core, of course, is the producer who at the time had as more creative say than anyone else on the set. This brings some of the great scenes ever shown about movie-making, such as the moment when Amiel, the director, tries to put Jonathan in his place about how a scene should be shot, "in order to direct a picture you need humility". Another comes with the moment when Jonathan and his soon to be 'asistant to the producer' has to object out of just being stunned. But more than Douglas, it's also tremendous, memorable screen time for Lana Turner, perhaps in her most successful performance in just sheer acting terms (not necessarily just in presence or style like in other pictures), and for Dick Powell, who with this and Murder My Sweet has two defining roles outside of his usual niche. With many sweet camera moves, a script that crackles with the kind of scenes and dialog that makes one wish for the glory times of Hollywood's Golden Age, and at least four or five really excellent performances, The Bad and the Beautiful might not be as astounding and near-perfect as 8 1/2 or as funny as Bowfinger, but it ranks up there with the best movies about movie-making, and can make for some fine entertainment even for those who aren't really interested in how movies are made.
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"Give the Devil his Due"
Steffi_P27 November 2010
During this time in the early 50s there were quite a number of Hollywood pictures which scrutinised and often satirised Hollywood itself. The old studio system had been seriously weakened in the war years, the young crop of independent producers and writer-directors were gaining ever more prominence, and the dream factory as a whole had become a little more introspective, not to mention cynical. But while Sunset Boulevard, All About Eve (about the theatre, but the point carries through) and Singin' in the Rain aimed their sights at the injustice and hypocrisy of the star system, The Bad and the Beautiful takes on the thorny issue of creative control.

The Bad and the Beautiful is referenced extensively in auteurist Martin Scorsese's 1995 documentary on American movies, as an explanation of the antagonism between a producer's commercial drive and a director's artistic one. However it is far from a validation of auteur theory, for while it emphasises the importance of the director's role, it also points out (quite correctly) the equally crucial contributions of the writer and the producer himself. Incidentally the actual producer of The Bad and the Beautiful is John Houseman, primarily an actor who really only dabbled (albeit quite successfully) in production, and thus someone who could perhaps afford to snipe from the sidelines. Oddly enough screenwriter Charles Schnee would also turn to producing soon after this. He certainly shows extensive insider knowledge of the industry.

The director of The Bad and The Beautiful is Vincente Minnelli, a man whose flowing and extravagant style was put to best use in the musical genre, and although he was certainly competent in drama he does tend to overdo things a little for the form. One typically impressive Minnelli manoeuvre is the lengthy tracking shot at the party about fifteen minutes in, in which the camera is "carried" from one character to the next, while the careful arrangement of extras draws our eyes from one point of focus to another, a woman singing beautifully yet unnoticed in one corner, while a gossipy starlet is surrounded by a gaggle of admirers in another. Minnelli's tendency to keep all the characters in shot together during dialogue scenes means there is no need for back-and-forth editing. When there is a cut it is a meaningful jump, such as the close-up when Sullivan is told he won't be directing Shield's first big picture. Ultimately though the elaborate nature of Minnelli's direction is disproportionate to the needs of the picture, and a more stripped-down approach could have intensified the drama.

Another lesson The Bad and the Beautiful teaches us, both through its plot and its own example, is the importance of the right actors in a production. The majority of players in this large ensemble cast tend towards a uniform competence. People like Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan and Vanessa Brown give steady, solid performances, not outstanding but apt to their characters. Dick Powell has a neat writer-ish cynicism to him, and it is only him and the vivacious Gloria Grahame that threaten to steal the show. A gratingly melodramatic Lana Turner is the only conspicuously bad player. However at the heart of The Bad and the Beautiful lies the powerful turn by Kirk Douglas. Douglas plays Shields with the mix of realism and exaggeration of a larger-than-life character, capturing the producer's boyish enthusiasm and exposing his inner fragility in a way that draws attention and lingers in the mind.

And it is here that we can see the picture's real worth. It is all very well making an accurate and incisive behind-the-scenes study of Hollywood's methods and morals, but to have any point the picture should also be an engaging and entertaining piece of storytelling. The Bad and the Beautiful is not especially romantic or funny or suspenseful, and yet it was a big hit, being the second-highest grossing picture of 1952. It seems the best thing this picture has going for it is the very character of Shields himself, who as written by Schnee and played by Douglas is both a fascinating and, yes, sympathetic individual. And the overriding message seems to be that, while producers tend to be a rather dysfunctional lot, it is their drive and efficiency that is behind many of the best things in movies. The picture's original title Tribute to a Bad Man is eminently better than the one it got saddled with. Jonathon Shields is clearly not a nice person, but through its compelling portrayal The Bad and the Beautiful salutes him.
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that bad, bad producer
didi-518 May 2004
A story of betrayals and misunderstandings in the festering underbelly of Hollywood; this is Vincente Minnelli's cool expose of the workings of a producer (Kirk Douglas, as one of the movies' great detestable characters) and the effect he has on those who come into contact with him: a director who feels abandoned yet goes on to produce his greatest work (Barry Sullivan); an actress who is rescued from semi-alcoholism and turned into a star (Lana Turner, in one of her trademark parts); and a prize-winning novelist who is uprooted to shape his book for the screen (Dick Powell, in one of his last film roles before moving into television and film directing).

We see their stories in a series of flashbacks, linked by the three enemies of Douglas coming together in the office of studio biggie Walter Pidgeon – who coolly reminds them of the good things the producer brought to their lives along with the bad. There are other good performers in smaller roles – Gloria Grahame as Powell's twittery wife, Gilbert Roland as the Latin temptation, and so on. ‘The Bad and the Beautiful', filmed in good old black and white, has plenty of meat to keep you watching. Only the slightly twee ending lets it down, but you can't have everything.
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2 Out Of 3 Ain't Bad
ccthemovieman-19 December 2005
A bit of a soap opera, this film was divided into three segments as people recalled their experiences with "Jonathan Shields," played well by Kirk Douglas.

"Shields" was a guy interested in making movies and he used people to get to the top. Three of these people tell of their dealings with him, and none of them have too many good things to say.

I liked the first and third segments but didn't care for the middle one with Lana Turner simply because Turner became so melodramatic, too hysterical for me. Barry Sullivan was excellent in the first part and helped get me into the story. He was the director who got "screwed" by Douglas.

Turner was the unknown actress whom Douglas turned into a star while the last part dealt with the key screenwriter for Douglas, played by Dick Powell. I thought Powell was the best of the four main characters of the film but his segment was the shortest, unfortunately. As good as he was, his wife was equally as annoying. She was played by the normally entertaining and alluring Gloria Grahame, who was anything but that in this role. She sounded ludicrous with her fake southern accent. How she won an Academy Award for this role is mind- boggling.

Some classify this movie as film noir, but I dispute that. It's simply a straight drama with soapish overtones. It's well-written, however, and keeps one's interest all the way, so I am not knocking this movie. It has a good things going for it.
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Grahame won an Oscar for this??!!!!
Ripshin18 June 2005
Winning an Oscar has nothing to do with the amount of on screen time, so the shortness of Grahame's role does not bother me. However, her cartoonish interpretation of a Southern Belle is simply not worthy of an Academy Award, especially when the role is intended to be seriously dramatic. Jean Hagen most certainly deserved the Supporting Actress honor for her APPROPRIATE comedic turn as an over-the-top, unfortunately voiced silent film actress in "Singing in the Rain." And, folks, that scene with an hysterical Lana Turner driving in the rain is, well, HYSTERICAL.

VM was an excellent director, but some of his films, especially the overwrought melodramas, simply do not hold up. Yes, they always look great, but often the performances in the dramas are of the scenery-chewing variety.

In regards to another user's post, I agree that the scenario of Powell's character identifying his wife is ridiculous. The same thought immediately crossed my mind when seeing it for the first time.

My feelings towards Douglas's performance are mixed. At times he hits the mark, but at others, it is pure ham.

The film is definitely worth seeing, but it does not deserve the status of "classic." Its presentation of the industry is clichéd. As others have stated, "Sunset Boulevard" blows this film out of the water.
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The composer the star
jandesimpson18 May 2006
My tribute to the great Hollywood film composer, David Raksin, is long overdue. I only discovered the other day that he died a couple of summers ago at the considerable age of 92. I suppose I had thought that like most of those figures who reached their peak in the middle of the last century he had passed away many years ago. A re-seeing of "The Bad and the Beautiful" fairly recently reminded me of just how outstanding was his contribution to movies of all shades of quality. I first became aware of the uniqueness of the Raksin 'sound' on my original viewing of Wyler's "Carrie" in 1952. It is impossible to define, other than to say that it owes nothing to central European romanticism, the sound of almost all the in-house studio composers such as Newman, Stothart and Steiner, or to the tradition of 20th century symphonists such as Copland and Diamond which fed the imagination of film composers as diverse as Elmer Bernstein and David Amram. Raksin had a sound all his own as did Bernard Herrmann and Miklos Rozsa, as instantly recognisable as theirs but I feel his range is wider. He seldom repeated himself as did Rozsa who composed in the same style regardless of genre. ("Double Idemnity", "Ben-Hur" and "Madame Bovary" have nothing common apart from their same sort of watered down Kodaly-like music.) His style is intensely lyrical, conceived with a verve and passion that always transcended the most trivial movies and made them, if not worth watching, always worth listening to. Unlike many of his colleagues he seldom hit the jackpot by working on films of great quality. I think it only happened twice, with Abraham Polonsky's B movie "Force of Evil" which has become recognised as a marvellous example of film noir and of course William Wyler's "Carrie" where he was just one of many outstanding contributors to what I have long argued is possibly the greatest work of art to have ever emerged from the Hollywood studio system. Although it has its passionate advocates, I cannot share their enthusiasm for Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful". It is certainly very professional in the way it slickly dissects an unsympathetic character through the flashback reminiscences of those he mistreated, but it had all been done before and considerably better in "Citizen Kane" and "All About Eve". However the film is worth watching if only to wallow in Raksin's gorgeous score. And there is plenty of it, particularly in accompanying all those voice-off narrations. And then just as one is beginning to wonder if the marvellous opening credit theme is about to be heard once too often, the composer introduces something entirely new for the Dick Powell narrative, a jaunty section based on a four-note motif (a falling perfect fifth, rising up a major sixth, then down a major seventh). The way this is subsequently developed is truly symphonic. Incidentally if you want to discover a film score that has the length and complexity of a symphony just close your eyes (you won't be missing much) and listen to "Forever Amber". Raksin in excelsis!
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The Shields' Touch
theowinthrop22 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Hollywood insider films have been made since the movie colony came out to the west coast. The Hollywood community was aware that the public knew their patented make-believe was just that, and so they were willing to share the "truth" about Hollywood with the public fairly often.

But these films got darker in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1950 Billy Wilder's SUNSET BOULEVARD showed how the world had forgotten it's celebrities and stars of the late silent period a generation earlier. In 1951, although ostensibly a comedy, SINGING IN THE RAIN did show the disaster to so many silent careers (even the detestable Lila Lamont's) that sound brought in it's wake. Yet with all the viewing of the effect of the film industry's changes on the lives of actors, few tackled that of production people.

Vincent Minelli's 1952 THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL did just that, studying the career of a super film producer. It's use of organized series of flashbacks reminds of that this film's producer was John Houseman, once the partner of Orson Welles in his Mercury Theater. The constant comment that the anti-hero of the film, "Jonathan Shields" (Kirk Douglas) is dismissed as a "genius" is like the disparagement shown to boy-genius Welles when he showed up in Hollywood. But the basic model for the producer seems to be David O. Selznick, whose father was prominent in the 1920s, until forced out by rivals in the industry. Jonathan's father was also a big shot until he too was thrown out by his rivals.

Briefly the plot of the story is how Shields made a career out of the work of other people, several of whom he hurt by discarding as soon as he could. First is his co-producer/director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), whose treatment plan for a major film is taken from him by Shields to sell the studio on backing it. Amiel hoped to direct it, but it is directed instead by Von Ellstein (Ivan Triesaut - a kind of clone of Josef Von Sternberg). Amiel breaks with Shields as a result, and never will work for him again. However, Amiel is able within a few years to be one of the most successful Hollywood directors anyway.

That incident was in 1936 (a film preview is shown at a theater showing ANNA KARENINA with Garbo and Fredric March - an MGM film, just like this one). In 1941 Shields is casting the leading role for a film to be shot by Harry Whitfield (Leo G. Carroll - possibly a clone of Alfred Hitchcock). He decides to hire "Georgia Lorison" (Lana Turner) for the female lead opposite "Gaucho" (Gilbert Roland). Lorison is the daughter of a classic leading actor of the past (his voice is heard - it is Louis Calhern's), who died impoverished and an alcoholic wreck (the father and daughter are supposed to be John and Diane Barrymore). Georgia is trying to keep off the sauce herself, and falls on the day shooting is to begin. Since Jonathan learns that Georgia loves him, he romances her. It is only when the film is in the can that he breaks it off, rather roughly. Georgia's performance makes her a success in Hollywood, but she never will work for Jonathan again.

Finally we have the story of novelist James Lee Barlow (Dick Powell) and his wife Rosemary (Gloria Grahame). Barlow is in Hollywood to write the screenplay version of his best selling novel of the deep south (he's a clone for William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe, with some F.Scott Fitzgerald in). As Rosemary keeps James Lee from working, Jonathan tries to get the author into isolation to work, and preoccupies Rosemary with Gaucho (who had come onto her at a party). But Gaucho and Rosemary are killed in a plane crash. James Lee finishes the script, but an argument between Jonathan and Von Ellstein causes the latter to quit the film. Jonathan ruins the film because he has no talent as a director. Still he and James Lee might work on a new project together, but a stupid remark by Jonathan causes James Lee to realize that Gaucho and Rosemary were together on that ill-fated trip due to Jonathan. So he too leaves the producer. But subsequently he writes a novel about his wife, and wins a Pulitzer Prize.

Called together by Jonathan's financial head, Harry Pebble (Walter Pidgeon), the three victims of Shields refuse a new offer for just one final picture with him. But at the conclusion they all show curiosity on just what the new idea of his is.

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL had a wonderful script - it has many intricate bits in it that one has to catch on repeated viewings. Pebble (originally Shields' boss) dismisses him until he sees the treatment of the novel that Amiel wrote - he thinks it is Shields' ideas). He says in front of a seething Fred Amiel he always thought Shields a genius. Later, of course, he realizes it was not Jonathan's work. Similarly Von Ellstein congratulates Jonathan on being the first producer whose treatment of a book resembles the work of a director. Later he too realizes it was Fred's work, and ironically the collapse of Jonathan's position is begun when Von Ellstein lectures Jonathan on how you can't just stuff a film with a series of climaxes but have to build to one. Also the first time Georgia and James Lee discuss a film script they accidentally (by lack of knowledge on his part, and by temporary failure of memory on hers) hurt each other without realizing it. It becomes a rich tapestry of the industry and the various lives that get involved in it. As such it is one of the best films about movie making ever made.
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Boffo Show Biz Meller has Legs.
mryerson12 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Still enjoyable after all these years. This is what Hollywood liked to think would pass for gritty expose' but was little more than a glossy, retelling of hoary industry myth. (For an update on the story see Altman's The Player) Kirk Douglas (at the absolute top of his game here) plays the S.O.B. producer, Lana Turner (in that brief moment between the baby fat and middle age that seemed to overtake her so swiftly) as the cynical, hard-drinking, vulnerable, showbiz outcast, near ex-actress, Barry Sullivan as the neophyte director looking for a break, Walter Pidgeon as the bottomline fixated studio head, and Dick Powell as the Pulitzer prize winning author and font of high quality original material. The supporting cast is chock full of quality types, Gloria Grahame has some nice moments as Powell's wife, Gilbert Roland as a Latin Horndog and the magnificent Elaine Stewart as the current object of his rutting interest. Douglas' Jonathan Shields is brilliant and ruthless, in fact, so brilliant that it's difficult to see how he came to be in such poor circumstances at the opening of the film. But he quickly surrounds himself with the components necessary to move smartly up the ladder and therein, of course, lies the rub. He sees those around him as little more than 'components' and they recognise the opportunity for great wealth and fame he offers them while they luxuriate in the comfortable fiction that their relationships to him are more than 'just business'. Hurt feelings and gnashing of teeth to follow but not before the Turner character has a career again, the Sullivan character has a resume, the Pidgeon character is awash in black ink and the Powell character has banked thousands of relative easy dollars and accumulated enough first-hand material for a blockbuster on Hollywood Babylon. Director Vincente Minnelli delivered a solid entertainment and it should be measured as just that. It is a well-made melodrama that exposes little about the 'real' Hollywood. It does not match the sophistication of All About Eve nor the mesmerising drama of Sunset Boulevard but it will hold your attention for the full running time and amuse you in the bargain.
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Trash By Any Other Name......
evanston_dad28 June 2006
This glossy, trashy soap opera of a movie has won all sorts of accolades and an idolatrous fan base, but its appeal is lost on me. It's filmed in chilly black and white, giving it the patina of an art film, but if this were filmed in blazing Technicolor, it wouldn't be any more distinguished than a heap of other 50s sudsers, like "Peyton Place" or "The Best of Everything." Vincente Minellis proved that he could do shadowy melodramas as well as colorful musicals, but his direction is still fairly anonymous. The pacing of the film itself, with its rigid flashback structure, is monotonous, and it's much too long. I get a kick out of Gloria Grahame in whatever she's in, so she was a welcome addition to the cast, but she's in the film for maybe ten minutes late into its running time, and I was too numbed by indifference by the time she appeared to regain interest. Dick Powell is the only other actor I really remember, mostly because his dry, cynical writer character was so far removed from the bouncy, googly-eyed boy-next-door roles he played in all of the Warners musicals.

Grade: C+
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Wonderful movie
Bob M-39 August 2003
I watched it on the telly just this afternoon and it had been a while since I had seen TBATB. I loved it. Douglas is brilliant and so is the rest of the cast. Turner (a mediocre actress, at best)delivers her best performance. The story is wonderfully entertaining, if not ultra-realistic. The mood is not mean-spiritted, with enough room for humour. Catch this on a saturday or sunday afternoon and you'll be spending 2 hours in joy.

I give it a 9.
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exceptional and full of lust, passion and betrayal
MartinHafer16 March 2006
This movie is actually a very high quality soap opera. The story is better, as is the acting and direction, but still down deep this is a soap. Now this isn't meant as a criticism, but this is more a description of all the plot twists and betrayals--sort of like a season of a typical soap squeezed into one movie.

Kirk Douglas does a really good job of portraying a sociopathic user--a Hollywood big-shot who stomps on all his friends and enemies alike in order to get ahead. He is the major star and focus of the film, despite it having a very strong supporting cast.

After you see this film, try to find the sequel, TWO WEEKS IN ANOTHER TOWN. While it isn't quite as good, it's still an excellent film and shows what happens to people like Kirk once their star has faded.
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Searing Betrayals from a Satan Incarnate in Sharp Insider's Look at Hollywood Machiavellianism
EUyeshima13 February 2006
Known more for his stylish MGM musicals, director Vincente Minnelli pulled out all the stops for this classic 1952 melodrama about a ruthless film producer, Jonathan Shields, who alienates all of those around him to build his fortunes and legacy in Hollywood. But this is no derivative Jackie Collins-style potboiler with cardboard cut-outs as characters. Ignited by Kirk Douglas's terrifically brutal performance as Shields, the film is incessantly watchable - similar in structure and perspective to Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" - as the story tracks his rise to the top and fall from grace through three primary relationships - the first with Fred Amiel, a director with whom Shields partners early in their careers, the second with Georgia Lorrison, an alcoholic bit player and daughter of a Hollywood legend whom Shields grooms to become a big star, and the third with James Lee Bartlow, a writer whom Shields tries to make a screenwriter in spite of the constant interruptions by Bartlow's southern belle wife Rosemary.

Filmed in a rich black-and-white by veteran cinematographer Robert Surtees, the film is slick and penetrating at the same time, a deep-dive character study of not only Shields but the people who come to admire his tenacity and creativity only to be betrayed by his lack of character. Composer David Raksin's music perfectly underlines the emotional pull of the movie. Minnelli has assembled a great cast to embody the story. Ever resourceful with his trademark dimpled granite chin, Douglas does not make Shields a complete villain but rather an intriguingly textured opportunist. You want to hate him but thanks to Douglas's natural charisma, you can't deny how he opened the right doors for the people around him. Ideally cast as Georgia in what is likely her career-best performance, Lana Turner is surprisingly effective in what must have been quite a stretch for her meager acting talents - from pathetic drunk to clinging starlet to haughty diva.

Longtime leading man Dick Powell and familiar character actor Barry Sullivan respectively portray Bartlow and Amiel with precision and an alternating sense of brotherly obligation and resentment toward Shields. In a manner similar to the way he portrayed Ziegfeld in William Wyler's later "Funny Girl", Walter Pigeon plays production executive Harry Pebbel with stentorian fervor. Aging matinée idol Gilbert Roland has an archetypal role as an actor who believes his own image as a Latin lover, and in a few brief scenes, Gloria Grahame fluidly captures Rosemary's purposeful flightiness and veiled frustration. You can even spot Beaver's mom Barbara Billingsley playing a frustrated costume designer scolding Georgia on the way she walks in her creation.

Minnelli has concocted some really great scenes, especially the open-ended conclusion. The best, however, has to be when Georgia finds a tawdry starlet (played acerbically by Elaine Stewart, who much later became a game show hostess) descending the stairs at Shields' mansion at which point she flees and drives with Hollywood-style abandon in her car. While it's fun to speculate on who is playing who within Hollywood lore, e.g., Shields as the doppelganger David O. Selznick, Georgia as Diana Barrymore (daughter of John), the characterizations are so rich that the guessing game is secondary. The DVD includes an interesting 90-minute TCM documentary on Turner, who apparently led a life more scandalous and lascivious than anyone in the movie.
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I Don't Get It
telegonus9 September 2002
This is one of those so-called classic movies I just don't get. Its credits are impeccable, and director Vincente Minnelli had done brilliant work elsewhere. The screenplay won an Academy Award. Actress Gloria Grahame won an Academy Award. With apologies to Miss Grahame, who did some fine work over the years, this does not seem deserved. As the story of the rise, fall and rise again of a ruthless producer widely believed to be modeled on David Selznick, it is no more than a series of cliches and in-jokes. As I am not a fan of either I was not particularly amused. Kirk Douglas is unbelievable in the leading role. He can portray torment and ambition, but not brilliance. In private life he may well be brilliant, but this doesn't come across on the screen. There's nothing of the entrepeneur or impressario about him; and no sense of the businessman. He seems at all times like an actor playing a part. Lana Turner is marginally better. Barry Sullivan is bland as a director, and the normally capable Dick Powell cannot overcome a bad case of miscasting in his performance as a pipe-puffing Southern writer (not based on Faulkner, I hope). In any case, Barton Fink this ain't. My sense is that the movie is popular for its "in" references, the thinly veiled depictions of real life Hollywood folk, the sheer fun that movie insiders and outsiders have connecting all the dots. I did this, too, while watching the movie, but in the end it just didn't add up. I didn't get it.
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The Good and the Under-Appreciated
gregcouture15 April 2003
There are those who find this one dated, shallow, unconvincing, poorly acted, blah!, blah!, blah! To each his own. If you're in the mood for Hollywood at its most self-indulgent, though, both in story and treatment, this one's for you!

It surprises me that Vincente Minnelli wasn't even nominated for his direction of this film, which was generously rewarded on Oscar night in various categories, and that David Raksin was also overlooked for his very fine and expressive score. Lana, so often underrated as an actress, gives quite a performance and Minnelli was especially appreciative of what she could do. He's quoted as saying, "She had great depth and color and rose to the part..." in an interview in which he reveals that her hysterical flight in her automobile was accomplished in just one take! Take that Kim Basinger!

The CD now available includes a quite interesting Turner Classic Movies documentary, "Lana Turner...A Daughter's Memoir," with Cheryl Crane gracefully sharing some memories, a scoring session with music cues, and two theatrical trailers: for "The Bad and The Beautiful" and its CinemaScope/Metrocolor "sequel," also starring Kirk Douglas, scored by David Raksin and directed by Minnelli, "Two Weeks in Another Town," which was far and away more over-the-top than its predecessor.
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I'd Like To Be Jonathon Shields
BigIdeasMolitz20 July 2005
This is one of favorite pictures and I view it often.

Minelli wanted to create a trio of movies about Hollywood. The Bad and the Beautiful was the first and Two Weeks In Another Town was the second. I believe a third was never made.

Bad is a terrific movie, right up there with Sunset Boulevard when it comes to movies about Hollywood. Kirk's performance is really so good, that I always wished that I could have been Jonathon Shields. The vision of him in his white dinner jacket, black tie untied, collar open, holding sleeping Lana Turner and then the camera moves back to show that it's the edge of the pool and then...he drops her's a priceless scene. As is the scene in which he plays poker to get a job.

His argument with the director Von Elstein about interpretation and humility is very strong.

This is by far Lana's finest work...better than any performance she ever gave, including The Postman Always Rings Twice and Madame X. It's the most natural behavior and she looks sensational. I also always enjoy Barry Sullivan's performance.

The score by David Raksin beats his Laura score by's very modern...sinister at some points, melancholy at others...even upbeat and humorous at others.

Much of Minelli's tricks in this picture end up in the second...Two Weeks, including scenes from Bad and scoring from Bad.

I never miss a chance to see either film and those who are still around who were a part of it should be very proud of its enduring power.

The video is available and Rhino released the complete score including alternate theme takes.
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Fascinating glimpse at old Hollywood
marzolian27 August 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This came on TV late at night this week, and I didn't know a thing about it. That's the way I enjoy movies the most, and this one didn't disappoint.

Although it's now more than 50 years old, it wouldn't take a lot of rewriting to remake it today.

I only saw a couple of minor glitches, but they really don't take away much of the impact of the story.




This was pointed out by the host on Turner Classic movies: the scene where Georgia (Lana Turner) drives away from Jonathan Shields' house at night. There hasn't been a hint of any kind of outdoor weather in the whole movie, and then in this scene all of a sudden she's in a driving rainstorm.

Next, as James Lee (Dick Powell) and Shields (Kirk Douglas) stop at a gas station at night on their way back to Hollywood, James Lee spots a newspaper with his wife's death reported on the front page. In the next scene, still at night, the two of them reach the accident scene, where he identifies her body. Now, how is it possible to publish a newspaper, for the paper to get delivered to a gas station, for somebody to see it, then to drive to the accident site, and the crash site looks like it happened minutes or hours ago???

However, for every clinker scene like this, there were many others that made you think you were watching geniuses at work.

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Very dated and highly overrated.
jack.hunter7 February 2002
This movie must have been dated even when it was originally released in 1952. A great cast and a story concept that has so much potential is turned into a melodramatic soap opera. The characters are turned into caricatures of supposed hollywood denizens that are so stereotypical and one dimensional as to become laughable. How Gloria Graham won an Oscar for such a minor role also totally escapes me. Skip this one and view "Sunset Boulevard" or even "Ed Wood" if you want a quality movie based on movie lore.
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A beautiful movie, Kirk Douglas in top form
ed5623 March 2005
This 1952 classic is a rare look into the film industry. The main story follows the times of one ruthless and ambitious producer Johnathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) who steps on many toes on his way up to the top of Hollywood. Vincent Minelli's Direction is energetic and keeps the viewer's attention through the last minute. Kirk Douglas shows here what a unique and powerful actor he really is and Lana Turner also shines as the gorgeous looking actress and Shields love interest. Bottom line, when it comes to movies about movies, this one remains the best more than 50 years after it's initial release. Highly recommended 10/10.
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A soap opera, but a good one!
cutter-1229 March 2002
Kirk Douglas plays a meglomaniacal movie mogul in the mold of Harry Cohn and David O' Selznick with a dash of Orson Welles thrown in. A great melodrama which is also a pretty sharp satire on Hollywood movie and star making. Not a gritty insight into the darker side of Hollywood ala Sunset Boulevard or The Player, but a good melodramatic character study with good writing, direction and performances throughout. One of Kirk's top five best. Lana Turner fans won't be disappointed either. The only annoying and contrived flaw is Gloria Grahame's overdone portrayal the Southern Belle wife of William Powell's character and how she is killed off. Grahame received an Oscar for this performance and it was the second major blunder the Academy made that year after they named The Greatest Shown on Earth Best Picture. The Bad and the Beautiful is top entertainment. Don't miss it!
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A glance at the backlots of Hollywood
Elizabeth-32822 March 2001
This is a fantastic movie about what goes on after the cameras stop rolling. Among the brilliant cast are Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Leo G. Carroll, and Gloria Grahame, in her Oscar winning role. All of these actors are fabulous. Yet, I believe it's Kirk Douglas who really steals the show. His performance as Jonathan Shields is definitely Oscar worthy.

Although some parts of this movie can be kind of corny, it's a must see classic for all movie fans. It's very interesting to see what it's like to be in the movie business. So I give "The Bad and the Beautiful" a 9 out of 10.
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