Sunday, 13 March 2011

Best Actor 1952: Kirk Douglas in The Bad and the Beautiful

Kirk Douglas received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Hollywood producer Johnathan Shields in the Bad and the Beautiful.

The Bad the Beautiful tells an episodic story of how Shields has helped and hurt three people a screen writer, a movie star actress, and a director. It is terribly repetitive story, and when it ended I really thought, "that's it?".

Johnathan Shields is the son of a old filmmaker who has died, and had so little mourners Shields paid extras to go to his funeral. He uses his father's legacy, or lack thereof as an ambition to become a great filmmaker, along with a wannabe director. So they work together to make something special and become noticed. Early in these moments Douglas is his usual charming self which cannot be faulted. He also shows an to ambitious personality which is well handled too. He puts the right passion into his performance that reflects well the passion of Shields in his desire to make it to the top. Well he does, but Shields hurt his director friend by not giving the director the star directing job for Shields' first major film, something the director was integral part of. This first betrayal was well handled by Douglas, but it was only a slight one and really something Shields had do to in the situation.

Shields' next challenge is to turn a downtrodden daughter of a late movie star, Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) into a star. Douglas is good early in these scenes with Turner, as they are not so romantic together but rather passionate. It is a strange concept, but Douglas handles the relationship as something Shields utilizes to make her into a star. He again shows the right passion, and power in her molding of her that is effective. He does bring her to stardom, but again he betrays her by not returning her love after their triumph together. This time a far larger betrayal and one unfortuantely Douglas does not really portray well enough. He really did not indicate it quite well enough beforehand, and his whole big statement of not wanting to be manipulated by anyone else seems to come out of nowhere. I will blame both the film and Douglas as well on this one. The film always brought it on a little too quickly, but Douglas needed to make a better transition. It is not a terrible part of his performance but it is a weakness especially since he was so successful with a similar character in Champion, here he falls short.

Finally the last person he helps is a novelist/screenwriter (Dick Powell). Douglas in this third of the film actually seems almost transparent and it really does not focus enough on him, and perhaps too much on Powell. He is shown to help the screenwriter by bringing his brilliance out as a writer. Shields though has a flop due to his own direction, and hurts Powell's character by leading his southern belle of a wife into an affair with a movie star, which leads to her death in a airplane crash. Douglas' performance here became pretty much old hat, as he repeated but to an lesser extent what he did in the other two thirds of the film. Not that he is bad, but he just did not add anything to Shields here. He again though did not make Shields' brutal edge entirely believable, although again the film did not give it enough time for it to be really effective. So that's Douglas performance, charming as usual, and properly passionate but lacking in ways. My review might seem like an abrupt cut off but that is the way the film deals with his performance, it just cuts off. Douglas and the film probably have benefited by giving his one scene at the end to show what Shields has become after all these events that have transpired, but the film does not give it to him. I still think it is a good enough performance overall, but it is lacking in some aspects.


dinasztie said...

OK, my predictions are ruined. :D He won't be your pick probably.

Anonymous said...

I agree he was good, but I have such an indifference for this film - it's so...boring.

joe burns said...

Never seen it, and I'm sad my predictions are ruined, ha ha.