Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 8

Last Friday was dedicated to Hollywood's take on Hollywood

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952): Kirk Douglas is Jonathon Shields, Hollywood producer, head of his own studio. In the opening scenes we don't see him, we see his old collaborators--director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan,) actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner,) and writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell.) Shields is on the phone, trying to talk them into making a new picture. Only Bartlow will even answer the phone, and that's just to tell him to go to hell. Seems he has a past with all of them. A past that involves friendship turning sour as he double-crosses each of them in turn. All in the cause of inflating his name...and in making great pictures. And that's the key, he got his start making low-budget pictures for Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon) who now works for him. The framing device for the story is a meeting in Pebbel's office. And we learn that while Shields is an arrogant, credit-stealing, back-stabbing, cheating swindler...we also learn that he made great pictures in the past, and made each and every one of them into a star. Their careers were good working with Shields, and have been great since. So what's the big problem about working with him again? This is Hollywood's perverted love letter to itself, admitting it's personal faults while also pointing out that quite often those faults lead to some really great pictures.

THE BIG KNIFE (1955): And then this one is all about Hollywood's faults. Based on a stage play by Clifford Odets, who was not shy about his hatred for Hollywood. Jack Palance plays movie star Charlie Castle, a man living with the tragedy of having a dream, compromising on it, but still holding on to it. He's a big Hollywood star, but his life is managed by the studio, and ultimately the studio head Stanley Shriner Hoff (Rod Steiger.) His personal life is falling apart, as he's separated from his wife (Ida Lupino, providing some small measure of sanity) and son. And there's a bit of a hidden scandal in his past that makes him susceptible to pressure from all sides. There's not a heroic character in the entire cast (a mark of true noir) and the ending is depressing and perfect. The point couldn't have been clearer if it was 90 minutes of Odets' middle finger with his voice screaming "This is for you, Hollywood!" And I love it.

Total Running Time: 227 minutes
My Total Minutes: 415,886
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