Särkyneiden haaveiden kaupunki / Brustna illusioner / Illusionernas stad. US © 1952 Loew's. PC: MGM. P: John Houseman. D: Vincente Minnelli. SC: Charles Schnee – based on a story by George Bradshaw. DP: Robert L. Surtees. Cost: Helen Rose. M: David Raksin. "The Bad and the Beautiful" theme also composed by Raksin. ED: Conrad A. Nervig. C: Kirk Douglas (Jonathan Shields), Lana Turner (Georgia Lorrison), Walter Pidgeon (Harry Pebbel), Dick Powell (James Lee Bartlow), Barry Sullivan (Fred Amiel), Gloria Grahame (Rosemary Bartlow), Gilbert Roland (Victor “Gaucho” Ribera), Leo G. Carroll (Henry Whitefield), Vanessa Brown (Kay Amiel), Paul Stewart (Syd Murphy), Elaine Stewart (Lila). Helsinki premiere: 12.2.1954 Gloria - telecast: 31.10.1972 MTV1, 25.12.1991 TV1, 21.10.2012 ja 1.4.2013 YLE Teema: K12 – VET 39501 – K16 – 3220 m /118 min
A DFI print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Vincente Minnelli), 28 Feb 2016
Kirk Douglas, who will turn 100 later this year, gave some of his strongest performances for Vincente Minnelli, including as the ruthless producer in The Bad and the Beautiful.
The Bad and the Beautiful, which itself won 5 Oscars, is still a top "Hollywood on Hollywood" picture, and we showed it fittingly on the evening of the Academy Awards night. (The sun rises in Helsinki ten hours earlier than in Hollywood, and the ones who want to watch the show in real time here need to stay up all night).
It is a tough Hollywood self-reflection from five angles: the executive Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon), the producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), the director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), the screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), and the star Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner). Shields breaks all their hearts, and they all rise to the top of their game despite that but thanks to him.
The structure of the film is reminiscent of other three-part stories then popular in Hollywood, films such as Unfaithfully Yours and A Letter to Three Wives.
The Citizen Kane / Rashomon connection has also been mentioned. The portrait of the tycoon Jonathan Shields develops like a jigsaw puzzle from the recollections of the other four protagonists. Let's also note the presence of John Houseman as the producer and Paul Stewart among the cast. The Shields building with its "non sans droit" motto brings to mind Xanadu and Manderley.
As often with Minnelli, it's about the relationship between life and art. As often with Minnelli, it's about putting on a show. The scenes about film-making are engrossing. There is true passion in them. We can believe in the charismatic urge in the story of this small team of friends evolving via many hardships from Poverty Row to multiple Oscar winners.
There are tragedies involved. Jonathan Shields in the beginning buries his father, a Hollywood pioneer, so hated that Jonathan has to pay extras to attend the funeral. Among them is Fred Amiel who cannot help saying frankly what he thinks. Jonathan is angry at first, but they become partners.
Georgia Lorrison is the suicidal, insecure daughter of a superstar of the stage and screen (the images on her wall remind us of John Barrymore). Jonathan Shields finds on the wallpaper of their decaying mansion a caricature of his own father as a monster. He cuts it from the wallpaper and hangs it prominently in his own room. Shields bullies Georgia into self-confidence.
A secret of the creativity of the writer James Lee Bartlow is his passion for his wife Rosemary (Gloria Grahame). She distracts him all the time and excites him all the time. In Hollywood circumstances this chemistry is, however, not working, and Shields separates them and even urges "Gaucho" Rivera (Gilbert Roland) to show Rosemary a good time. Their airplane crashes and they die. Bartlow is shattered.
Shields has betrayed them all at crucial moments of their lives, but they have survived. Let's just mention that the way Shields betrayed Harry Pebbel was intentionally losing all his money to him in a card game in order to get a job with him in order to be able to pay back the gambling debt. Now Shields has lost everything again, this time an entire fortune, including Pebbel's, and he asks them all to work for him one more time. The story remains open-ended.
The Cat People parody does not do justice to Val Lewton's masterpiece but the scene where Shields explains the essence of horror is brilliant. "In the dark all sorts of things come alive". You only see the eyes, you only hear a scream.
The Georgia Lorrison story displays Shields's skill in cruel manipulation but also his genuine instinct and sympathy. "To give truth to a performance there is nothing like love". Georgia shines because she believes that Shields loves her. But: "love is for the very young" is Shields's motto. "Love is for the birds" says Lila (Elaine Stewart) with whom Shields spends the night as soon as the premiere has taken place.
The Bad and the Beautiful is an unsettling story about the torment that is film business. I had not seen it for a while. It is certainly worth revisiting. A thrilling score by David Raksin. Exciting cinematography by Robert Surtees.
The print is brilliant.
OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON MÅRTEN PIIL (1964):