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The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) is a MGM melodramatic film which tells the story of a film producer who alienates all around him. It stars Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Barry Sullivan, and Gloria Grahame.

The film was written by George Bradshaw and Charles Schnee and directed by Vincente Minnelli. It won Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gloria Grahame), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Cedric Gibbons, Edward Carfagno, Edwin B. Willis, F. Keogh Gleason), Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Costume Design, Black-and-White and Best Writing, Screenplay. Douglas was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

The Bad and the Beautiful holds the record for most Oscars won (five) by a movie that was not nominated for Best Picture.

In 2002 the United States Library of Congressmarker deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Plot

In Hollywoodmarker, screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), movie star Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner), and director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan) each refuse to speak by phone to Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas) in Paris. Movie producer Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon) gathers them in his office and begs them to help Shields out.

The backstory of their involvement with Shields unfolds. Shields is the son of a notorious old filmmaker who had been dumped by the industry. He was so unpopular that his son had to hire "extras" to attend his funeral. Shields is determined to make it in Hollywood by any means necessary.

In a flashback, Shields partners with aspiring director Amiel, whom he meets at his father's funeral. In a poker game, Shields intentionally loses money he does not have to film executive Pebbel so he can talk Pebbel into letting him work off the debt. Shields and Amiel learn their respective trades making low-budget films for him. Amiel decides he is ready to film a project he has been nursing along. Shields pitches it to the studio. He gets a large budget to produce the film, but has to betray Amiel by letting someone with an established reputation direct it.

Shields next encounters alcoholic small-time actress Lorrison, the daughter of a famous actor Shields admired. He builds up her confidence and gives her the leading role in one of his movies over everyone else's objections. When she falls in love with him, he lets her think that he feels the same way in order to get the performance he needs. After a smash premiere makes her a star overnight, she finds him with a beautiful bit player named Laila (Elaine Stewart). He drives Lorrison away, telling her that he will never allow anyone to have that much control over him.

Finally, Bartlow is a contented professor at a small college who has written a bestselling book. Shields wants to turn it into a film and have him write the script. Bartlow is not interested, but his shallow Southern belle wife, Rosemary (Gloria Grahame) is, so he agrees to do it for her sake. They go to Hollywood, where Shields is annoyed to find that her constant distractions are keeping her husband from his work. He gets his suave actor friend Victor "Gaucho" Ribera (Gilbert Roland) to keep her occupied. Freed from interruption, Bartlow has no trouble finishing the script. Rosemary, however, runs off with Gaucho and they are killed in a plane crash. When Shields slips and reveals his involvement, Bartlow leaves too.

Shields then decides to direct a film himself, instead of just producing it. But he botches it. Everybody else does admirably, but the result is a mess. Shields' stubborn refusal to release it leads to his bankruptcy.

The story comes full circle to the beginning. When all three reject Shields' offer to work together again, Pebbel sarcastically agrees that Shields "ruined" their lives. They are all now at the top of their professions. As they leave, Pebbel is still talking to Shields. Out of his sight, the three eavesdrop on another phone while Shields describes his new idea and become more and more interested.

Cast

Actor Role
Lana Turner Georgia Lorrison
Kirk Douglas Jonathan Shields
Walter Pidgeon Harry Pebbel
Dick Powell James Lee Bartlow
Barry Sullivan Fred Amiel
Gloria Grahame Rosemary Bartlow
Gilbert Roland Victor 'Gaucho' Ribera
Leo G. Carroll Henry Whitfield, a British director
Vanessa Brown Kay Amiel, Fred's wife
Paul Stewart Syd Murphy
Sammy White Gus, Lorrison's overly-emotional agent
Elaine Stewart Lila
Ivan Triesault Von Ellstein


There has been much debate as to which real-life Hollywood legends are represented by the film's characters. Jonathan Shields is thought to be a blending of David O. Selznick, Orson Welles and Val Lewton. Lewton's Cat People is clearly the inspiration behind an early Shields-Amiel film. The Georgia Lorrison character is the daughter of a "Great Profile" actor like John Barrymore (Diana Barrymore's career was in fact launched the same year as her father's death), but it can also be argued that Lorrison includes elements of Minnelli's ex-wife Judy Garland. Gilbert Roland's Gaucho may almost be seen as self-parody, as he had recently starred in a series of Cisco Kid pictures, though the character's name, Ribera, would seem to give a nod also to famed Hollywood seducer Porfirio Rubirosa. The director Henry Whitfield (Leo G. Carroll) is a "difficult" director modeled on Alfred Hitchcock, and his assistant Miss March (Kathleen Freeman) is modeled on Hitchcock's wife Alma Reville. The James Lee Barlow character may have been inspired by Paul Eliot Green, the University of North Carolina academic-turned-screenwriter of The Cabin in the Cotton.

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