Charles Castle is a successful Hollywood actor who has opted for screen success over art. He must make critical decisions regarding his career, his marriage, his art & morality. In this screen adaptation of a Clifford Odets play, Castle is pressured by his studio boss and manipulated into a potentially murderous cover-up to protect his career. An indictment of the amoral world of 50's Hollywood and its corrosive effect upon the artist. Written by
A truly memorable film with tough and rugged, but hardly handsome, Jack Palance as Charlie Castle playing of all people an actor who's always playing matinée Idols and great lovers. As Charlie's boss and studio owner Stanley Hoff,Rod Steiger, says of him throughout the film :"He makes all the women of America heart's swoon". "The Big Knife" is worth the price of admission just to see how and if director Robert Aldrich can pull it off and make the film both entertaining and believable.
You see Charlie is getting tired of playing all those roles over the years as a heart throb to the women of America and wants to get out of his contract with the Hoff Studios and go independent; That was a big thing for actors back in the 1950's. Charlie wan't to do films that are worthy of his extraordinary talents as a serious and Shakespearian actor. It's that Charlie's off the wall and possessive boss Stanley Hoff, the Big Knife, doesn't want his meal ticket to leave and take his fans with him! So Stanley rolls out the heavy artillery and plays his trump card. It seems that Charlie has a dark secret that the studio has been covering up for years and if Charlie leaves that secret won't be a secret any more! Get It Charlie!
The film "The Big Knife" can really be described as one of the most multi storied soap operas ever put on film with the audience needing score cards just to keep up with the story and even then they'll get lost. Whoever coined the phrase "Seeing is believing" must have based it on the the incredible performance of Rod Steiger's Stanley Hoff which goes from a Saturday Night Live impersonation shtick of a big Hollywood producer to an Oscar winning interpretation of Hamlet all at the same time! It's really incredible to watch and believe what your seeing in Steiger's over the top performance.
And Jack Palance, determined not to be shown up his co-star, really did pull it off in him Playing a role so out of character and yet evoking real and genuine sympathy from the audience that he should have, but didn't, won the 1955 Academy Award for best actor hands down! As the tortured soul with a dark past who only wanted to do Art Films and get away from playing debonair and charming movie parts that make women go ape all over him. In the end of the film when Palance went all out, or was it underwater, in the final few minutes of the movie he was so convincing that I just couldn't keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks!
No matter how much people criticize Robert Aldrich's "The Big Knife" and with good justification this is one movie where you can really say that the acting actually overwhelmed the script!
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