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Robert De Niro,
Young film producer, Monroe Stahr, is a rising star in 1930's Hollywood due to his ability to get anything he envisions done even if it means breaking a few rules. The latest film he's working on stars two popular actors, Rodriguez and Didi, and everyone is sure it'll be a smashing hit when it's done. The times are changing however, since the first guilds and unions are being formed in Hollywood, but Stahr is still sticking to his old ways of doing things in spite of that. His main opponent becomes a union organizer, Brimmer, but Stahr finds ways to deal with him as well. However, in his hubris, Stahr crosses one red line too many when he falls for a young troubled engaged woman called Kathleen Moore and neglects Cecilia Brady, the young daughter of studio executive and Stahr's boss, Pat Brady. Pat becomes furious over this as well as Stahr's other misbehavings and makes it his mission to take Stahr down. Due to all the pressure, Stahr's health starts failing as well. The film is ...
Kazan and Pinter's THE LAST TYCOON is disjointed, uneven, and strangely memorable -- rather like an oddly unsettling, hazily recalled dream.
Robert De Niro, in a quietly amazing performance, disappears into the title character of Monroe Stahr, a workaholic Hollywood producer who is, in Keats's phrase, "half in love with easeful death." (This understated movie is from the same year as De Niro's flashy bravura turn in Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER.)
Most of the supporting cast is excellent, including Robert Mitchum and Ray Milland as a couple of Shakespearean-knavish villains, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence, Theresa Russell, and Dana Andrews.
Ingrid Boulting is beautiful but somewhat less satisfactory as Stahr's love interest, Kathleen Moore. In fairness, however, her role is deliberately written as something of an enigma: Kathleen Moore is a blank movie screen onto which Stahr, a near-solipsist, projects fantasies and memories of his deceased wife.
The various elements of THE LAST TYCOON never quite cohere into a whole, but several scenes have stuck in my memory ever since I first saw it years ago. Among them:
Stahr's mock-lecture to the misfit screenwriter Boxley (Donald Pleasence), beginning: "You've been fighting duels all day..."
Kathleen Moore telling Stahr, over the insistent crash of the surf at his unfinished ocean-front mansion, "I want ... a quiet life"
Stahr's informal evening meeting with a labor-union organizer (Jack Nicholson), during which the privately despondent movie producer grows increasingly drunk and belligerent; and ...
The closing ten minutes or so of the film, which take on an almost surreal quality: Disembodied lines of dialogue from earlier scenes recur; Stahr repeats his earlier speech to Boxley, only now as a soliloquy addressed directly to the camera; and then -- murmuring "I don't want to lose you" -- he seems to hallucinate a vision of Kathleen as she moves on to a new life without him.
Only Jeanne Moreau and Tony Curtis struck me as jarringly miscast in their parts. They -- and their comic-pathetic scenes as insecure movie idols -- seemed to belong to another movie entirely.
THE LAST TYCOON is an uneven work but most assuredly has its merits.
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