The Bad and the Beautiful

Dir. Vincente Minnelli

USA 1952 | Black & white | 118mins | Drama | Romance

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Barry Sullivan, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Barry Sullivan, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame

One of the most enjoyable movies Hollywood made about itself, this warts-and-all portrait of a ruthlessly ambitious producer is also, one suspects, among the most truthful.

Now down on his luck, Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) wants to work once more with the director, star and writer whose movie careers he helped foster –  but all they can think of is how he betrayed their trust. Chronicling Shields’ rise to power in three long flashbacks, Minnelli and producer extraordinaire John Houseman bring just the right blend of affectionate satire and scathing drama to an account of movie-capital mores that feels unusually authentic. It helps both that many characters are clearly based on real people (think Selznick, the Barrymores, Faulkner, the Hitchcocks et al) and that Douglas hurls himself so fully into his role – the potent mix of charm, canniness and determination a pinnacle in the actor’s career. Minnelli, meanwhile, directs to perfection, some scenes distinguished by a rare subtlety,  others by a remarkable intensity. 

Available on: 35mm

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