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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
Above and beyond all the semi-enjoyable camp and melodrama of "The Oscar" is this...and it doesn't surface until the final scene, and final bit of dialogue: Frank Sinatra is shown to be the "good guy"...the role model for Frank Fane and other actors, regardless of whether they actively are seeking The Oscar.
In reality, according to many who were there in Hollywood and Vegas during Sinatra's heyday and fell inside his considerable orbit of influence, 'Ol Blue Eyes was more full of himself, and could be even more difficult to be around, than the character of Fane, as created by author Richard Sale in the novel and effectively portrayed here by Stephen Boyd.
Sinatra, in fact, would have been a more realistic Fane than Boyd...because the character he was playing was not too far off himself. Yet, when Oscar presenter Merle Oberon, at the film's conclusion, says, "...Frank.....SINATRA (not Fane)...!" as the winner for Best Actor, everyone stands and applauds. For all his iconoclasm throughout his career and life, Sinatra suddenly has become Establishment.
As for "The Oscar" itself, it's like watching an accident. We're filled with a kind of shocked fascination, so we continue to watch. A major question here is why all those excellent professionals---Joseph Cotten, Ernest Borgnine, Eleanor Parker, Broderick Crawford, Walter Brennan---chose to be a part of this trite, unrealistic tale of Hollywood.
As Fane, Boyd projects a sarcastic, sometimes vicious---though at times curiously vulnerable---persona. Elke Sommer is at her physically charismatic best. And her acting is surprisingly good.
Tony Bennett, though, is the metaphor for all that is laughable in "The Oscar". He portrays Fane's pal, Hymie Kelly, with cartoonish over-acting.
Milton Berle, as agent Kappy Kapsetter, shows how solid a straight actor he could be. All those prominent people who have smaller roles here do creditable jobs.
About the same time "The Oscar" came out, in 1966, Broadway was doing the Budd Schulberg story, "What Makes Sammy Run?" Its theme, and that of "The Oscar", are similar: sooner or later, those who step on others on the way up will get smacked back down.
After what was done on the screen to "The Oscar", Schulberg probably was happy his story never was made into a film.
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