The Bad and the Beautiful

BadAndBeautifulSuggested by Brad Nelson • Academy Award-winner Kirk Douglas stars in this drama about the life of an ambitious Hollywood producer, as seen through the eyes of a writer, a director, and an actress whose careers he influenced and whose personal lives he battered.
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13 Responses to The Bad and the Beautiful

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It’s not as if Kirk Douglas is under-rated. He’s one of the relatively few Hollywood legends from the golden age. But I do think he is under-rated as an actor. Douglas puts a dynamic touch on every character he plays, including Jonathan Shields, son of a famous movie producer who means to duplicate his father’s rags-to-riches success.

    This is not a one-note caricature of the hard-driving director who will use people and ruin lives to get whatever he gets. Douglas plays a multifaceted character. He genuinely likes the people he is working with. But it’s a tough business and sometimes he will indeed use people in a cold way. But he’s not a bad guy, at heart.

    And that describes the compelling dynamic of The Bad and the Beautiful in which we witness the life and career of the actor, the writer, and the director as they intersect the life and career of Jonathan Shields (Douglas). The movie starts with the three gathered in the office of Walter Pidgeon (Douglas’ partner in the business). Pidgeon knows that all three detest Shields but asks them if they will help Shields this one last time. Shields is down on his luck.

    The movie proceeds with three long flashbacks, each showing the brilliant and successful collaboration each has with Shields which eventually sours at the end. This is a truly interesting picture. I’ve never been a big fan of Lana Turner. But she’s good in this.

    Dick Powell (the writer) and Barry Sullivan (the director) fit snuggly in their roles. No one appears to be acting. It’s as if you’ve opened up a window on a hidden world, which may be the very definition of good cinema.

    Douglas anchors the dynamic as he is a mix of energies: Usually entrepreneurial, often charming, sometimes chummy, a personal therapist if need be, but always looking to create a great movie, sometimes no matter who gets hurt.

    Will the writer, the director, and the actress — whose careers all hinged upon Douglas at some point — swallow their bitterness and remember the good times? It’s worth getting to the end to find out.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Douglas puts a dynamic touch on every character he plays

      I sometimes find his acting over-the-top. To my mind, his acting comes in pretty much one mode which is “pissed off”.

      I have not seen all his movies, so perhaps he does not alway play the unhappy loner.

      I will say that I think he should have played the villain more often. He sneers like no one else, except perhaps Richard Widmark.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Well, I think his role as Ned Land would please you. And since Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea also has James Mason as Captain Nemo, it’s well worth viewing if you haven’t seen it. (Mason was also in Journey to the Center of the Earth, so maybe he liked Verne the way Vincent Price liked Poe, even though one of Price’s Poe movies (The Haunted Palace) actually takes a lot more from H. P. Lovecraft’s short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.)

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          I think I might have seen the end of “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”, but don’t recall much of it.

          I like James Mason very much. His speaking voice was beautiful. It carried a real authority and had style. He was one of those people who could read the Sears catalogue and make it interesting.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I haven’t seen this. Trying to think of movies in which I recall Kirk Douglas as a major character, I get Seven Days in May of course (which is probably why you did this one), but also Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Spartacus (I rather enjoyed the Pepsi commercial some years back that played off a scene from the latter).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Here’s what I consider some must-see Kirk Douglas films beyond the ones you mentioned:

      Ace in the Hole
      Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
      Lonely Are the Brave
      In Harm’s Way
      The Heroes of Telemark
      The Man from Snowy River
      Saturn 3 (with Farrah Fawcett, this is a bit of “so bad it is good”)

      And I’m hoping to catch “The Walls of Jericho,” “Ulysses,” “The War Wagon,” and “The Glass Menagerie”…assuming I haven’t seen them long ago and have forgotten.

      Even in the movie where he is not the main start (such as “In Harm’s Way” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”) he infuses a film with macho watchability. They don’t make ’em like him anymore.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I forgot Gunfight at the O. K. Corral. I suppose it isn’t quite as familiar a movie. But considering how much I’ve read on the subject, it’s still surprising that I forgot it.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          It’s a terrific film. It easily competes with “Tombstone” as the best film on the subject. I think it’s a tad better. Douglas makes a mean Doc Holliday.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            I can hear Frankie Laine singing, “Boot Hill, boot hill…”

            • Timothy Lane says:

              The theme song to the movie is “Gunfight at O.K. Corral” (“There the outlaw band made its final stand”), though I do recall seeing a movie on TV that had a song called “Boot Hill”.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                The theme song to the movie is “Gunfight at O.K. Corral”

                Same song. The line, “Boot hill, boot hill” comes toward the end of the song, where it is used instead of the words, “O.K. Corral”

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Which still leaves me wondering what the other movie I saw was. I seem to recall that it was about the gunfight, but not quite the same movie.

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