At 9 minutes and 32 seconds, Gloria Grahame's performance in this movie became the shortest to ever win an Oscar. She held the record until 1976, when Beatrice Straight won for her 5 minute performance in Network (1976).
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The character of Shields is regarded as a mixture of producer David O. Selznick, Orson Welles and producer Val Lewton. Georgia, the alcoholic daughter of an iconic actor, is very clearly based on Diana Barrymore. Bartlow, the college professor turned best-selling author turned screenwriter, is thought to be based on Paul Green, a UNC professor who followed a similar career track. Gilbert Roland's appearance as "Gaucho" is seen as a self-parody; the Mexican-born actor, once a star in silent dramas, had just appeared as "The Cisco Kid" in a string of "B" westerns.
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Sex is mentioned six times throughout the film. While this may not be a big deal today the filmmakers in 1952 had trouble getting the word to make it past the censors.
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Concerned about Lana Turner's insecurities and talk of her limited acting abilities, Vincente Minnelli got her through her first scene by telling her that every retake was the result of somebody else's problem. Through gentle coaching he got a strong performance out of her while also keeping her confidence intact.
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Stories about the film's basis in fact were so strong that independent producer David O. Selznick asked one of his lawyers to view the film and let him know if it contained anything libelous about him. Despite the parallels between Selznick's life and that of the father-obsessed independent producer played by Douglas, the lawyer determined that there were no grounds for a lawsuit.
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Given that the character of Jonathan Shields seems clearly based on David O. Selznick, there is a certain comic irony in the film, in that Shields's greatest flop, which destroys his career in Hollywood, is a costly Civil War epic. Selznick, of course, had his biggest-ever success with Gone with the Wind (1939).
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To somewhat soften the depiction of Shields, Vincente Minnelli cut a scene in which he accepts the Best Picture Oscar® for the film whose idea he had stolen from his best friend. In the scene, Shields devotes most of his speech to his late father, then makes only a brief mention of his friend at the end.
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Leo G. Carroll's brief appearance as a "demanding" director is a thinly veiled reference to Alfred Hitchcock. When he first came to Hollywood, Hitchcock was under contract to producer David O. Selznick for years. Carroll had roles in many Hitchcock films of this era.
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Ned Glass, who plays the wardrobe man in the cat costume scene, was an active member of the Living Newspaper unit of the Federal Theater project on Broadway during the Depression, an organization accused of being "leftist" and "pro-communist" by many on the political right. After Glass was blacklisted during the Joseph McCarthy "Red Scare" era, he became a carpenter.
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Gloria Grahame's character was based on Zelda Fitzgerald, as Dick Powell's character was a combination of Paul Green and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
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Vincente Minnelli was so impressed by Ned Glass' performance as the wardrobe man, he kept expanding his role. After two days of shooting, he still needed a close-up of Glass, but the next day the actor did not show up. Having failed to do a thorough background check before shooting started, MGM had hired Glass without realizing he had been blacklisted. The night before his final shot, studio security had called to inform him he would not be allowed on the lot. After a hasty conference with studio executives, MGM decided they would rather ignore the blacklist than pay the $20,000 to $30,000 it would require to re-shoot the key scene.
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Vincente Minnelli wanted the music for the long, silent scene in which Georgia runs from her dressing room through a deserted sound stage, composed before shooting. That way he could match his blocking and camera movements to the score.
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Although preview audiences were generally positive about the film, many felt it was too long, prompting MGM to cut almost 12 minutes, including shots of Shields in Paris as he phones to ask his former friends to work on his next film and a scene in which Georgia and James meet for the first time.
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The photograph of Kirk Douglas' detested studio-head father, which Barry Sullivan straightens on the wall in this MGM film, looks exactly like Jack L. Warner, the head of Warner Bros. - MGM's competitor.
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The studio costume designer, played by Barbara Billingsley, was based on three Hollywood costume designers: Edith Head, Irene, and Helen Rose, who designed the women's costumes for this film.
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In conferences with Kirk Douglas, Vincente Minnelli suggested he downplay his character's explosive side and focus on charm instead. Douglas agreed, but throughout shooting, whenever he finished a scene, he would say, "I was very charming in that scene, wasn't I?" After filming was completed, Douglas sent Minnelli a note complimenting him for "(getting) out of me a much more quiet quality than I have ever been able to get in any picture". (Douglas quoted in "Minnelli, I Remember It Well")
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Lana Turner plays an actress whose career started as a movie extra. Turner started her own career as an extra in A Star Is Born (1937).
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The working title, "Tribute to a Bad Man", was later used as the title of an unrelated MGM feature (Tribute to a Bad Man (1956)). One reason for the title change was to add "beautiful", in consideration of the top-billed Lana Turner.
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Kirk Douglas was highly interested in Lana Turner during the shooting, but he could not do anything because of the presence of Fernando Lamas, Turner's boyfriend.
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The scene showing the production of the fictional low-budget horror film was based on how Val Lewton produced Cat People (1942).
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Realizing the film's shooting title, Tribute to a Bad Man, could lead audiences to expect a Western, John Houseman put out a call for new title suggestions. MGM Vice President in Charge of Publicity Howard Deitz quickly sent back The Bad and the Beautiful, an acknowledged bow to F. Scott Fitzgerald's story "The Beautiful and the Damned." Houseman and Schnee did not like that title, which they thought sounded like a cheap paperback novel, but MGM production head Dore Schary overruled them.
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All of the scenes set at Jonathan Shields' studio were shot on the MGM lot, using the studio's actual facilities. In addition to studio sets, the film also featured location shots of the Beverly Hills Hotel and Lake Arrowhead.
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This movie holds the record for most Academy Awards won (5) by a film not nominated for Best Picture.
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Composer David Raksin had scored a huge hit with the theme song for Laura (1944) but resented the fact that the lyricist received an equal share of the profits. As a result, he insisted that the love theme from this film be released strictly as an instrumental. It became a hit, but not at the same high level of his theme for the earlier film.
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The motto under the Shields Pictures Inc. coat of arms is "non sans droit". This was the same motto used by Shakespeare and means "not without right".
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The only film in the first 68 years of the Oscars to win Best Adapted Screenplay without a Best Picture nomination. As of 2020, this has happened only twice more: Sling Blade (1996) and Gods and Monsters (1998) also achieved this feat.
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The original short story by George Bradshaw concerned a theatrical impresario (rather than a film producer) and was generally believed to be based on the career of theatrical producer and director Jed Harris. In the story, the deceased impresario has arranged for a posthumous letter to be sent to three people who believed he had wronged them.
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The film finished shooting on June 4, 1952 and cost $1,558,263. It was first shown publicly in Los Angeles on Christmas Day, 1952, so that it would qualify for Academy Awards (it won five), but its New York opening, at Radio City Music Hall, was not until three weeks later. Later in 1953, it was the opening-night film at the Berlin Film Festival.
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Won the most Oscars (five) at the 25th Academy Awards honoring films released in 1952 despite not being nominated for Best Picture.
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Early in the film, Harry Pebble admits to being 65 years old. Walter Pidgeon, the actor playing Pebble, was born in 1897 and had his 55th birthday and associated celebration while filming this movie.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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The $11 Jonathan gives each "mourner" at his father's funeral is the equivalent of $225 in 2021, when adjusted for inflation.
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Several actors in the movie had connections in future television series. Leo G. Carroll (the director) and Kathleen Freeman (his assistant) would play Cosmo Topper and his maid Katie on Topper (1953) the following year. Barbara Billingsley (costume designer) and Madge Blake (lady whose book is autographed) would portray June Cleaver and Mrs. Mondello on Leave It to Beaver (1957). Francis X. Bushman (funeral eulogist) would have his last screen appearance on two episodes of Batman (1966), also featuring Blake.
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Sandy Drescher, the little girl who provides the screams for Jonathan's movie "Cat Man," is best noted as the traumatized little girl who whiffs some formic acid, comes out of a trance-like state, screams and yells Them! (1954).
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At the preview of Jonathan's first film, the theater marquee listed the main feature as Anna Karenina (1935) starring Greta Garbo and Fredric March. That film was released on August 30, 1935, which puts the preview probably during the last four months of 1935.
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Though she does not appear until the very last flashback, Gloria Grahame's performance in this film was the ultimate finishing touch for what was a banner year for her - 1952. Not only did she win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for this film but also starred in two other hits the same year: as a sultry adulteress in 'Sudden Fear' and as a circus performer in the biggest box office smash of the year, Cecil B. DeMille's epic 'The Greatest Show on Earth', which won the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year.
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The beginning of the film is two years after Jonathan made his last picture, which presumably be 1950. The flashback sequence with James Lee Bartlow begins in Virginia during the summer of 1949. Thus, the entire Bartlow flashback occurs over, at most, 18 months.
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The scene in which Georgia drives off into the rainy night after discovering that Shields has been cheating on her was so complicated it took weeks after she had finished the rest of her scenes before she got to film it. Vincente Minnelli put the car's interior on a turntable, then choreographed the camera's moves in and out as the turntable shifted position. He instructed Lana Turner to build her emotions to hysteria throughout the complicated take. It took a day to get all the angles Minnelli wanted, by which time Turner truly was hysterical. The scene was one of the most memorable in the movie.
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