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David Merrill (Robert De Niro), a fictitious 1950s Hollywood director, returns from filming abroad in France to find that his loyalty has been called into question by the House Committee on... See full summary »
Robert De Niro,
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Robert De Niro,
When Robert De Nero as Stahr enters his residence for the first time, he refers to his Butler as "Kino", which is the actor's real last name. See more »
[about returning to school]
Oh, I don't know. I'm pretty well educated.
Maybe I should get married.
Well, I'd marry you, I'm lonely, but I'm too old and tired to undertake anything.
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One of the Most Overlooked Films in History For Good and For Bad...
What a mystery THE LAST TYCOON has been. This is a large-scale film with perhaps the greatest cast of male actors in history and nary a mention is made of it. Most critics bash it, the common viewer may dismiss it, but you cannot deny its place in history. It is not often you will find such a pool of talent AND a movie with both Robert De Niro and Jack Nicholson on screen together. They even FIGHT! By the way, THE LAST TYCOON also happens to be an excellent, if flawed, work of art.
Director Elia Kazan (GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT, ON THE WATERFRONT) and company have taken F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished novel about the politics and personal conflicts of 1930's Hollywood and put forth an off-beat, unusual picture. Kazan is one of only three directors to successfully direct motion pictures between the 1940's on through the 1970's (the other 2 being Hitchcock and Huston). A staggeringly legendary cast play their parts effectively instead of just calling in their performances, which easily could have happened. Perhaps there was some competition between the old school actors and their methods (Mitchum, Milland, Andrews, Curtis, Pleasence to name a few) and the "method" actors like De Niro or Nicholson who symbolically take the torch in this film. This is especially true of De Niro's extraordinary lead as "Monroe Stahr" (based on Irving Thalberg). Kazan helped to create the "method" acting concept, so who better to direct such a crossroad of talent.
"Monroe Stahr" is a no nonsense "Studio Chief" who I'm sure Fitzgerald encountered while a hack writer in Hollywood during his final years. De Niro as "Stahr" orders cuts here and fires directors there and caters to what he thinks audiences want. He is actually a noble character, something Fitzgerald may not have meant to express. He must deal with Robert Mitchum and Ray Milland, who represent the corporate, artless side of the picture business and later the writer's wing (represented by Mr. Nicholson). As expected, there are many conflicts of interest but the movie's magic lies in the amazing contrast Kazan and company make between the dream world of an old black and white movie and what happened when the director yelled "CUT".
I love classic black and white films and one of the aspects that made them so great was the world you were thrust into. Fake backdrops, miniatures, and grand sets surrounded the actors in most of them, but the dream-like quality of a black and white film kept you involved. With this film, some curiously familiar "fictional" film clips are used for screening purposes where the studio executives would clap or claw at what was projected (They were filmed specifically for this film). Kazan and co. create scenes from supposed films (one was CASABLANCA turned inside out) to add some realism to it all. We get to see an actor from the movies-within-the-movie "on" and "off-screen". Tony Curtis has some good early scenes as a perfect screen presence, but an awfully inept star "off-screen" when he meets with De Niro to confess his sexual confusion in real life. You'll know what I mean if you see the flick for yourself.
LAST TYCOON is a love story more than anything. Many people may dismiss the love angle as a distraction. I found it slightly hypnotic and mysterious. The love interest, played by a beautiful actress named Ingrid Boulting, is great at exuding an elusive quality, something the De Niro character can't put his finger on. It all leads up to a somewhat vague climax and ending, but perhaps the filmmakers were unable to come up with the final stamp Fitzgerald failed to accomplish himself.
This is a film for discerning and patient film-goers only. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. That is why I see movies. Why the film has been so looked over is bizarre. Even if you consider it a complete flop, it deserves recognition, if only for the great cast. If you like classic films and know a thing or two about film history, you may know why THE LAST TYCOON is so captivating.
RATING: 8 1/2 of 10
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