USA, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1953, 116 minutesт
Scriptwriters: Charles Schnee, George Bradshaw
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Director of photography: Robert Surtees
Composer: David Raksin
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Barry Sullivan, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell, Gloria Grahame, Gilbert Roland
At the dawn of the 1950s, a period of self-reflection begins in Hollywood. “A Star Is Born” by George Cukor and “Sunset Boulevard” by Billy Wilder appear on the screen; Robert Aldrich makes “The Legend of Lylah Clare” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”. Two “production films” were made by Vincente Minnelli: “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Two Weeks in Another Town”. “The Bad and the Beautiful" is a subtle and at the same time ruthless portrait of the “dream factory”.
Minnelli’s film is a typical story of a Hollywood career. Jonathan Shields (he combines the traits of many great producers and directors from Val Lewton to David Salznick, and from Darryl Zanuck to Orson Welles) starts with B-movies and quickly rises to the Mt. Olympus of Hollywood, becoming the head of an influential studio. Like his prototypes, this charismatic artist turns everything he touches into gold. In a drinking extra, he discovers a future star, in a die-hard southern novelist, whose portrait is probably copied from Faulkner and Fitzgerald, - the highest-paid screenwriter in Los Angeles, in his own assistant - an Oscar-winning director. He leads them to fame and at some point, betrays them. However, each of the characters eventually rises even higher, while the producer himself loses his job and, having gone bankrupt, moves to Paris.
Made in 1952, the film was both an evil satire and a eulogy. It is no coincidence that its French release title was “Enchanted” (“Les ensorcelés”). The very fact of addressing the everyday life of the “dream factory” seemed completely natural for the director who constantly showed the theatrical nature of any reality, taming an illusion with an even greater illusion. Thomas Elsaesser justly noted that Minnelli’s characters only at first glance want to achieve something tangible in life, but in fact are driven by “the total gratification of their aesthetic needs” (Elsaesser T. Vincente Minnelli // Genre: The Musical / Ed. By Rick Altman. London: Boston & Henley, Routledge & Kegan Paul. 1981. P. 15). In “The Bad and the Beautiful”, the dream of one character meets the dream of others. Perhaps that is why (and not just because “serious” films were traditionally black and white in the 1950s) such a sophisticated colorist as Minnelli shoots the film in black and white, adding a bit of gothic nightmare to his story. Minnelli uses fanciful decor in the characters’ dreams to show to how little an extent each of the characters exists in reality. Although some critics wrote in earnest that Minnelli believes that every American dines by candlelight, surrounded by crystal chandeliers and fresh flowers, the director’s craving for artificial beauty betrays in him not a dreamer, but rather an unsentimental realist who knows very well how much place in the life of an ordinary person is occupied by a dream.
Judging by the fact that the director of “The Bad and the Beautiful” was politely passed over at the Oscars, and the film itself was excluded from the shortlist of the best pictures, it accurately hit all of the Hollywood myth’s sorest spots.