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Jill St. John
Frankie Fane has clawed his way to the top of the Hollywood heap. Now, as he's preparing to win his Oscar, his friend Hymie Kelly reminisces over their life together, and Frankie's ruthless struggle to the top and the people he's stepped on (i.e., everyone else in the movie) to make it there. Written by
This obscure, sublimely over-heated film is a second cousin to "Valley of the Dolls" in terms of pure, unadulterated Hollywood camp. The film is like a massive wad of cotton candy for those who enjoy a two hour trip to movie hell. Opening at the ceremony for the title statuettes, we see that Boyd is the front-runner for Best Actor. But first, the audience must step back in time to discover how he got there. It falls to Bennett to narrate the with the most dry delivery of horrendous socko '60's scripting. Looking like a Dean Martin wax figure that's been left in the sun for two hours, he is a stumpy, squatty disaster in this film. Billed as "Introducing Tony Bennett", he has zero charisma, receives corpse-lighting, doesn't sing even once and forever after (thankfully) played only himself in films. At any rate, as the film flashes back, lean, mean Boyd (in a performance that ensured he'd never see another "Ben-Hur") is instantaneously irredeemable and agonizing as a big mouthed roamer who's joined by his stripper girlfriend (St. John) and a passive buddy (Bennett.) In these early scenes, St. John actually manages to come off as sexy despite a crazed tigress costume and the tacky surroundings. Soon, though, she's chewing one end of the scenery while Boyd chews the other. They meet in the middle where hapless Bennett is sitting like a bump on a log. Soon Boyd is trying to make it as an actor with the assistance of love-starved talent scout Parker (in a typically dedicated performance) and agent Berle (solid, also, in a non-comedic role...at least it is meant to be non-comedic!) Boyd's eternal bad attitude and horrible personality continue to inflict pain on all those around him and the viewing audience. In the film, he has a magnetic presence that draws everyone to him and causes them to embarrass themselves repeatedly. This charm is invisible to the film's viewers. One of his victims is the lovely Sommer, who looks stunning in an array of Head gowns and intricate hairstyles. His rise to the top of his profession is spoiled by his own ego and eventually he gets tripped up. He even gets one of those hilarious dreams with smoke swirling and actors dully repeating their lines. The movie is jam-packed with bits by stars who should have known better, some of them even Oscar-winners themselves (Crawford, Brennan, Borgnine.) Other cameos of people playing themselves lend a faux verisimilitude to the proceedings (Hopper, shortly before her death, Head, Hope, Oberon, even James Bacon appears at a press conference looking pouty because Archerd got all the lines.) There's a great little part for Hale as a snotty, demanding starlet and it's one time when Boyd comes off well. Lawford has a bit as a fallen star who works in a restaurant. Sadly, his own career would soon hit the skids as well. Adams adds a bit of verve as Borgnine's showy wife. She has one unfortunate scene, though, in which her behind is spread right in front of the camera. The film is a feast of kicky '60's production design, fun clothing and enormous hairdo's. There are a few clever touches in the film. At least twice, scenes involving different people are duplicated to show the parallels. The film has one of the all-time hilarious "surprise" resolutions...one last cackle before the credits roll. A MUST for any connoisseur of bad films!
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