“Oh, Charlie, my Charlie — what’s happened to your mind, your spirit, your soul? Charlie Castle, the guy I married — he was a tiger!”
At the insistence of his idealistic wife (Ida Lupino), philandering Hollywood actor Charlie Castle (Jack Palance) resists signing another seven-year contract with studio boss Stanley Hoff (Rod Steiger) — but when Hoff and his assistant (Wendell Corey) threaten to reveal Charlie’s part in a hit-and-run accident the previous year, he must reconsider his options.
Based on Clifford Odets’ 1949 stage play, this infamous skewering of Hollywood’s studio system (directed by Robert Aldrich) is actually a broader indictment of all powerful organizations and tycoons who attempt to silence the creativity and authenticity of individuals. Unfortunately, while Odets’ script is often sharp and incisive (“Never underestimate a man just because you don’t like him,” warns Charlie’s agent), it’s just as often overly florid and theatrical (“Why did I add this burden to that grotesque, devoted soul?” laments Palance at one point, struggling to let the words roll naturally off his tongue). Even worse, the film is overly stage-bound, with limited sets (nearly every scene takes place inside Castle’s manse) and clear divisions between the three “acts” of the story. Yet the strong ensemble cast works hard to overcome the script’s flaws, with especially noteworthy performances given by the many supporting players (Wendell Corey, Shelley Winters, Jean Hagen, and others). Most of Aldrich’s movies — always edgy and unique — are worth watching at least once, and this is no exception.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jack Palance as Charlie
- Shelley Winters as Dixie Evans
- Ida Lupino as Charlie’s long-suffering wife, Marion
- Wendell Corey as “Smiley” Coy
- Jean Hagen as the obnoxiously seductive wife of Charlie’s press agent
- Wesley Addy as Marion’s would-be beau, Hank
Yes, simply for its historical importance and earnest performances.