Vincente Minnelli's The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) has been on my to-watch list since I first became interested in classic Hollywood. From what I had read in articles and books, this film is talked about in terms of it's leading actress - Lana Turner. For sure she looks radiant and beautiful as always, she does give a moving performance as the "doomed daughter." I've always liked Lana, and it was wonderful to see her in a different role to the evil, slightly selfish roles I'm used to seeing her in, notably: The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Three Musketeers and Ziegfeld Girl. Surprisingly however, the sweater girl was not the star of the picture, and if she was intended to be, the show was indeed, stolen from her.
Kirk Douglas had a charisma and persona that really filled the screen to the point where he dominates his films entirely. Here, he plays a producer who will do anything to get what he wants, and incidently, makes many enemies throughout the duration of the picture. A strong character to play, an actor's dream, but not even Douglas and all his talent was able to hold the screen entirely.
Minnelli's film is not the greatest film ever made, and definitely not the greatest film where Hollywood critiques Hollywood. The structure does not run smoothly whilst it unravels the tale of Jonathan Shields' rise and fall, instead it is very bitty and uneventful: here's the director's story, now the actress's, and finally the writer's. There is no real mystery as to why these three stars hate this man Shields who keeps ringing them at the beginning of the film. Take another Hollywood on Hollywood film like Sunset Boulevard, a masterpiece of cinema, that keeps the audience gripped from start to finish about the story behind the dead body shown at the start of the picture. All About Eve similarly revealed the stages of it's story smoothly and convincingly, with a bit more style - something The Bad and the Beautiful definitely lacks.
Perhaps what makes the film not quite as effective is the fact that it was recycling the themes and stories of Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve - films that were considered masterful and highlighted the corruption and dark side of Hollywood/showbusiness so well, that it might have been wiser to release The Bad and the Beautiful a decade later instead of 2 years later. It had already been done. The story for Turner, though upsetting, was too predictable, in fact, each sub-plot was except for the plot involving Grahame.
Although not having quite the style or finesse of its' contemporary rivals as far as theme is concerned, Minnelli's film is an enjoyable story and thoroughly worth the watch for solid performances from a great cast of Douglas, Turner, and Dick Powell. But Minnelli's ace in the hole here, is Grahame, delivering her most endearing and captivating performance for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
Do not watch this film expecting Sunset Boulevard, rather a decent tale about the darkness of Hollywood, with a strong cast, but with a gift of a performance from the wonderful, Gloria Grahame.