With so many of us now under shelter-in-place orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have a recommendation for a stay-at-home movie you can easily rent through YouTube for a mere $2 or so: “The Bad and the Beautiful,” a 1952 Vincente Minnelli drama starring Kirk Douglas as a scheming, charming movie producer hated and loved by his screenwriter, his director, and his star.
Douglas, a veteran actor of the old Hollywood model, dominates this picture as Jonathan Sheilds, the type of handsome young go-getter we have all run into in our lives. He’s charming, good-looking, and smart, and he sees a goal in the distance in his chosen field, not caring too much about who he needs to step on in pursuit of his dream.
When Douglas died in February in Los Angeles at the age of 103, I realized it had been a long time since I had seen one of his films. “The Bad and the Beautiful” is a great showcase for Douglas. His Jonathan is quiet and playful when that’s called for, loud and bold when that’s appropriate, and generally a compelling presence in the story.
In the film, the movie producer Shields at one point gives a screen test to an aspiring actress named Georgia, played by Lana Turner. When the screen test is done, all of the top executives at the studio, including Shields, agree that Georgia’s acting misses the mark.
He signs her anyway. “When you’re on screen,” he says to her, “the audience can’t take their eyes off you. That’s what I want in a star.”
The same could could be said about Kirk Douglas. When he’s on screen, whether playing it low, medium, or over-the-top, your eyes gravitate towards him.
“The Bad and the Beautiful” was directed by ace Hollywood director Vincente Minnelli. There’s not a slow sequence in the film. It moves like a champion race horse trotting around its course. The film’s excellent black-and-white cinematography was by Robert Surtees, another Hollywood veteran, whose films include 1967’s “The Graduate.”
Based on a story by George Bradshaw, the screenplay for the film was written by Charles Schnee. Schnee won an Academy Award for his screenplay.
Have you seen “The Bad and the Beautiful”? Have thoughts about Kirk Douglas, Vincente Minnelli, or anything else movie-related? If so, I invite you to leave any thoughts or reactions in the Comments section.
Happy movie-watching, during these unusual times.
Want to set up a subscription to this blog? If so, type your e-mail address in the box below and click “Create Subscription.” There’s no cost, no spam, and you can leave at any time. I invite you to follow me on Facebook, and on Twitter, @LawrHartmann. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org