By Chuck Ross
Kirk Douglas turns 100 today, and there’s no better way to commemorate the milestone than by watching him in one of his best roles.
I’m talking about “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952) in glorious, Oscar-winning black & white (courtesy the talented cinematographer Robert Surtees), starring Douglas and a wonderful supporting cast in my favorite movie about Hollywood.
“The Bad and the Beautiful” is available on YouTube for three bucks , or you can get it on Amazon or iTunes for $10.
Besides winning an Academy Award for Best Cinematography, it also won for Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame), Best Adapted Screenplay (Charles Schnee, based on a story by George Bradshaw), Best Art Direction (Cedric Gibbons) and Best Costume Design (Helen Rose). Douglas was nominated for Best Actor, but lost out to Gary Cooper in “High Noon.”
Besides Douglas and Grahame, the movie also features Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, Gilbert Roland and Dick Powell, all at the top of their game. The movie was produced by John Houseman, and directed by Vincent Minnelli.
The venerable critic for the New Yorker magazine Pauline Kael didn’t like the movie much, but she had a couple of great lines about it: Minnelli, she says, gives the material “an hysterical stylishness,” and Robert Surtees’ cinematography “is more than dramatic, it has temperament.” Both of those comments ring true, but I would argue that those qualities just add to the enjoyment of the movie.
I also agree with The New York Times movie critic Bosley Crowther, who said in his review of the film, “Kirk Douglas is best as the producer — a glib, restless, unrelenting gent whose energies and resources are matched only by his perfidy and gall.”
“The Bad and the Beautiful” is exceedingly fun, popcorn-chomping entertainment. Mr. Douglas, we wish you live another 100 years.