Still the best Hollywood-on-Hollywood movie, The Bad and The Beautiful is loosely based on the career of David O. Selznick, detouring to take in a few insider anecdotes about Val Lewton, Orson Welles, Raymond Chandler, Diana Barrymore, Alfred Hitchcock, and Irving Thalberg.
Three people with good cause to hate producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) are gathered to take a phone call from Paris in which the washed-up Shields will pitch a new project. In flashbacks they cover his up-from-Poverty Row career, remembering why they loathe him so much.
Director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) is an early partner who is inspired by Shields to make something of a cheap monster picture called The Doom Of The Cat Man but is then shut out of his own dream project, a hilariously “significant” Mexican project called The Faraway Mountain.
Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), drunken trampy daughter of a John Barrymore-style hell-raising star, is hauled out of the gutter and turned into a second generation movie goddess through personal attention, and then dumped for an available slut (the wonderfully wry Elaine Stewart) on the night of the premiere.
Least likely to forgive is professional screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), whose flighty, flirty distraction of a wife (Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame) Shields passes on to ‘Latin lover’ Victor “Gaucho” Ribera (Gilbert Roland), who gets her killed in a plane crash.
No one can match Douglas as an ambitious megalomaniac, and this teeth-clenched, dimple-thrusting portrait is amongst his best work. The gossipy screenplay is served wonderfully by director Vincente Minnelli’s lush melodramatics and David Raskin’s seductive score.`
Leo G Carroll