A frustrated former big-city journalist now stuck working for an Albuquerque newspaper exploits a story about a man trapped in a cave to re-jump start his career, but the situation quickly escalates into an out-of-control circus.
Told in flashback form, the film traces the rise and fall of a tough, ambitious Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields, as seen through the eyes of various acquaintances, including a writer James Lee Bartlow, a star Georgia Lorrison and a director Fred Amiel. He is a hard-driving, ambitious man who ruthlessly uses everyone - including the writer, star and director - on the way to becoming one of Hollywood's top movie makers. Written by
Producer Jonathan Shields is in big trouble on a production and reaches out to three people he's befriended and betrayed in the past for help. All three are brought to Harry Pebbel's office where he makes a pitch for the help of each one. And we're told in flashback the dynamics of the relationships between Shields and each one.
One thing about Tinseltown, they've never been afraid to show the seamier side of movie-making. Kirk Douglas's Jonathan Shields is a not too thinly disguised version of David O. Selznick. The same drive, the same ambition, the same overwhelming ego that Selznick was legendary for is a part that was tailor made for Kirk Douglas.
The three betrayed people, director Fred Amiel(Barry Sullivan), star Georgia Lorrison(Lana Turner), and screenwriter James Lee Barlow(Dick Powell)all ring very true. One of the things I like about this film is that all three stories, each in itself, could be expanded into a film all it's own.
Lana Turner's role as the ersatz Diana Barrymore is not to hard to spot either. It's so much better here than the film based on her own book Too Much Too Soon. If that voice of Turner's actor father on those 78 rpms she's playing sounds familiar, it's that of Louis Calhern. Turner's was a life lived out all too well in the tabloids and she brings all of it to bear in playing Gerogia Lorrison.
Dick Powell, who was offered the lead as Jonathan Shields, opted to play tweedy professor turned screenwriter James Lee Barlow. This was Powell's next to last feature picture as an actor, it should have been the one he went out on. Powell was always ahead of the industry's cutting edge and he decided to concentrate more on directing and acting for the small screen.
Powell's segment includes Gloria Grahame as his flirty wife. Post World War II Hollywood, whenever it had a part for a tramp, first call Gloria Grahame. Here she responds with an Academy Award winning performance. She hasn't many scenes, but as was said in another MGM picture around that time, what there is is cherce.
I don't think there's ever been an actor who can go from zero to sixty on the emotional scale as quickly as Kirk Douglas. Check the scene when Lana Turner discovers how Douglas betrayed her. The intensity of his reaction alone is frightening and real. Douglas was also up for an Oscar, but it went that year to laconic Gary Cooper in High Noon.
Vincente Minelli put all the pieces together just right and it comes out great entertainment.
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