Revisiting: The Bad and the Beautiful
Vincente Minnelli’s classic Hollywood melodrama still shines on the big screen
Vincente Minnelli’s momentous 1952 melodrama returns to the big screen and it’s as bewitching and stinging as ever. The Bad and the Beautiful is justifiably regarded as one of the finest films ever made about the filmmaking process, combining Hollywood razzle-dazzle, heartbreak and uncompromising insight. It’s the tawdry, aesthetically pleasing story of a dashing but dastardly film producer (a character based on notorious Broadway producer Jed Harris) which takes the shape of a trio of bittersweet recollections.
The Bad and the Beautiful stars Kirk Douglas as the sensationally smarmy, obscenely talented Jonathan Shields - a born big shot, as ruthless as he is shrewd. His story is told selectively by those he has scorned: screen siren and recovering alcoholic Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), who loved Jonathan; his director friend Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), who was there as he rose to the top; and writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), whose life of simplicity and contentment was destroyed by Shields’ determination. Gloria Grahame fills out the cast (and near steals away the show) as Rosemary, Bartlow’s star-struck Southern belle wife.
Directed by Minnelli with both finesse and appropriate high drama (see Turner’s tear-soaked, rain-splattered drive and the shadowy reveal which prompts it) and with a Charles Schnee screenplay loaded with zingers, it’s a film as finely structured and ageless as the face of a surgically enhanced star. The Bad and the Beautiful took home a quintet of Oscars from 1953’s ceremony and in its title alone we have possibly the greatest ever description of Hollywood.
Selected release from Fri 20 April.