The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)
Saturday, January 4th
Over the course of eighteen years producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) has shamelessly used people in his quest for success in Hollywood. Actress Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), and director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) are three of Shields’ victims. However, despite their encounters with Shields, they found success in Hollywood mostly through their start with him. Shields now has called the three of them together to work on a new project in an attempt recapture some of his former success.
The Bad and The Beautiful takes a scathing look at Hollywood and the Hollywood system. The story was originally set around Broadway. However, it was director, Vincente Minnelli, and producer, John Houseman that insisted the film would be more powerful if set in Hollywood. Like other films that have held an introspective mirror to Hollywood, the film takes licenses with elements of the story that are reminiscent of the real Hollywood itself. Jonathan Shields draws comparisons to great producers/directors who were at times known to be dictatorial such as David O. Selznick, Orson Welles, and Val Lewton. The Shields-Amiel production of Doom of the Cat Men seems to have been inspired by Lewton’s Cat People. One only has to hear them discuss the fact that the audience will not see the cat to still feel terrified, and you are instantly taken to the Lewton film. Turner’s character Georgia Lorrison lives in the shadow of her father’s memory, memories that are very much like those of John Barrymore. However some have also drawn parallels between Lorrison and Minnelli’s ex-wife Judy Garland. Lorrison’s insecurity in her acting and reliance on drugs and alcohol to cope with the pressures of life are similar to the struggles that plagued Judy Garland.
The film holds the record for most Oscar wins without being nominated for best picture. The Bad and The Beautiful received Academy Awards in the categories for Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Costume Design. Gloria Grahame would win her only Academy Award for her supporting role in this film. Typically known for film noir, it’s refreshing to see Grahame play a sociable Southern wife who is just a little too friendly upon arriving in Hollywood. Kirk Douglas would receive his second of three Academy Award nominations in the Best Actor category. The award would elude him till 1996 he was presented with an Honorary Award.
Images from: The Bad and the Beautiful Dir. Vincente Minnelli. MGM, 1952. DVD.