Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952)

Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952)

“He wasn’t a heel; he was the heel.”

A movie producer (Walter Pidgeon) calls together a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner), and a screenwriter (Dick Powell) to see if he can convince them to work one more time with notorious Hollywood “bad guy” Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), who caused harm to each of them in the past.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Actors and Actresses
  • Dick Powell Films
  • Flashback Films
  • Gloria Grahame Films
  • Hollywood
  • Kirk Douglas Films
  • Lana Turner Films
  • Movie Directors
  • Paul Stewart Films
  • Vincente Minnelli Films
  • Walter Pidgeon Films
  • Writers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Vincente Minnelli directed this melodramatic look at the challenges of working within the Hollywood studio system, as personified by the first part of the film’s title (“bad” — i.e., ruthless — Douglas playing a thinly veiled version of David O. Selznick):

… and certainly populated by plenty of the second part (“beautiful” people):

Unfortunately, the entire construct of embittered but now-successful Sullivan, Turner, and Powell being pulled together to work again with Douglas doesn’t quite ring true as anything other than a narrative crutch:

… and the pacing of the various flashback plotlines feels off, especially the sudden appearance of Powell and his Southern-belle wife (Gloria Grahame):

Meanwhile, Turner’s performance is — well, typical of her work more broadly:

… though camp enthusiasts will likely appreciate her stand-out moment of hysteria during a car ride in the rain:

Peary nominates Douglas for an Alternate Oscar as one of the Best Actors of the Year:

… and he certainly embodies this type of success-at-any-cost individual perfectly. Film fanatics will likely be curious to check this film out once, given its five Academy Award wins, but I don’t think it’s must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Surtees’ cinematography

  • Gloria Grahame as Rosemary (I’m glad she won an Oscar for her work, as short as it is here)

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a one time look. Listed as a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book. Selected by the U.S. Library of Congress in 2002 for preservation in the National Film Registry as “culturally significant”.

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)


2 thoughts on “Bad and the Beautiful, The (1952)

  1. Not must-see. As per my 5/13/20 post in ‘The ’40s-’50s in Film’ (fb):

    “Without me, it would have stayed an idea.”

    ‘The Bad and the Beautiful’ (1952): I think I’ve now seen this 4 times (overall, no one can say I don’t give movies a fair shake). I’ve tried to like it and find that I don’t. And it’s not even Vincente Minnelli’s fault (this time), cause he doesn’t push here as he sometimes does with weaker material. I’m in something of a minority with this opinion cause this flick is held in high regard – I’m just not sure why. I can sort of get its incisive look at ‘the real Hollywood’ – and writer Charles Schnee’s creative mix of personality elements (everyone from Val Lewton to Josef von Sternberg to Ricardo Montalban to two of the Barrymores and, I’m guessing, Marilyn Monroe’s agent). But for a film about drama, there’s precious little compelling… drama. Kirk Douglas’ character is supposed to be this horrible, egomaniacal guy. Sure, he does a couple of very-not-nice things – but it’s not like he’s Harvey Weinstein!! …Then there’s the little matter of Gloria Grahame winning an Oscar for a not particularly Oscar-worthy 10-minute role (which I’d like to think she got for not winning for ‘Crossfire’ and not even being nominated for ‘In a Lonely Place’). …But even though this film does nothing for me, what Minnelli did for the theater the following year (‘The Band Wagon’) does everything for me – it remains my favorite screen musical.

    Fave ‘guilty pleasure’ scene: Kirk Douglas tells Lana Turner to “GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!!!” – so she GETS OUT and gets into some insane driving. …10 years later, Minnelli and Schnee would try to ‘re-capture the magic’ of ‘TBATB’ by making ‘Two Weeks in Another Town’: a colossal bore.

  2. I’ve not seen this but it’s considered a classic so regardless of personal feelings I’d say it’s a must see for FFs and at some point I’m going to track down a copy and get it viewed. It’s also been preserved in the Library of Congress so I’d say that’s also another endorsement.

    My approach to “must see for FFs” is simple who is a film regarded, how influential is it, how much cultural impact has it had, do film historians / critics etc have much positive to say. My personal take is irrelevant.

    I’ve not seen the sequel either which would appear to not be a must.

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