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The Bad and the Beautiful

Directed by Vincente Minnelli

USA, 1952

Cornerhouse, 9 September 2012

The Bad and the Beautiful

It begins with a phone call, or rather three.

Shields, a producer down on his luck, calling in turn a director, an actress and a screenwriter, looking to harness their talents.  He gets a flat brush-off.

A while later we learn of Shields’ role in their lives.  How he’d changed them for the better, maybe even saved them, but how then had come an act of betrayal on his part.  Or maybe he had just weaned them from his influence, allowed them to grow.

Lana Turner gets top billing, and she’s fine as the aforementioned actress, but really it is Kirk Douglas’ film.  As Shields he is a visionary, Faust-like figure.  That final scene with Turner, the two parting acrimoniously, the sheer intensity he’s able to call upon there, is spellbinding.  No other word will do.

At the end, the three are crouched around the phone, surreptitiously listening on the extension as Shields makes his pitch.  We know he knows they’re there, that he’s heard the tell-tale click as it was picked up.  And we can see that they are not entirely free from his spell.

The phone call comes from Paris, incidentally, which is perhaps a nod to Vincente Minnelli’s previous film An American in Paris.  Like that one, this film too is a classic, and it’s fitting therefore that it is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season.  Further details can be found here.

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