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The Bad and the Beautiful

The Bad and the Beautiful on DVD

Hollywood turns the camera on itself in this entertaining 1952 soap opera about the magic store and those who live in it.

Kirk Douglas is Jonathan Shields, a film producer who at "Bad and Beautiful's" opening has fallen on hard times. Three of the people he "created," but who now hate his guts, are brought in by Shields' long-time right hand man (Walter Pidgeon) to help get him back on his feet, and the rest of the movie unfolds as three separate episodes in which each character (the box office blockbuster star - Lana Turner, the honored director - Barry Sullivan - and the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer - Dick Powell) reminisces about how they met, where changed by, and then betrayed by, Shields.

This trio hates Shields so much they refuse to have anything to do with him, but their memories show that if it weren't for him and the care and attention he lavished on them when they needed it, none of them would be where they are today. But that hate runs deep, and it's Pidgeon's thankless task during the film to put their lives into perspective for them (actually, though, most of his persuasion happens off camera) and encourage them to remember Jonathan's true worth and help him now that the shoe is on the other foot.

The episodes unfold as flashbacks that explain clearly why these people hate Jonathan so much, yet they also show Jonathan not to be the devil incarnate they now consider him to be, but rather as a driven and flawed visionary who used people to his best advantage but who also elevated them with him rather than merely chewing them up and spitting them out.

In short, Jonathan may be a bit of a cad, but despite his unquestionable betrayals of this trio they've given him a bit of a bum rap.

The Bad and the Beautiful follows Douglas' Jonathan from his beginnings in "B" movies with director Sullivan, through the time he gave the alcoholic strumpet Turner her big break (by forcing her to grow up) and turned the academic and dry Powell from a gawky and pedantic writer into a revered screenwriter.

We also clearly see where and how he stabs them in the back - and, most importantly why.

Most movies like this are formulaic and cliché, but this combination of script, cast and Vincente Minelli's direction combine to create a marvelous "insider's look" at Hollywood's "Golden Age" and what it took to succeed there.

The Bad and the Beautiful won its share of Oscars (five, in fact), including best screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame, as writer Powell's star-struck southern belle wife). The black and white cinematography is also wonderful - and the performances by this all star cast show why they were stars. Douglas and Turner are particularly outstanding; Douglas makes his "cad" human, while Turner grows right on camera from broken down shell of a woman to top Hollywood star.

The DVD does the film justice. It's presented in its original full screen aspect ratio, which means home theaters with 16x9 TV's will have to use the stretch or zoom settings to fill the screen (otherwise you'll risk burning in the bars beside the 4x3 picture), but even distorted like that the picture still looks great.

The audio is typical of this era, which means it's okay but definitely won't give your sound system a workout. The Dolby Digital mono sound is directed to the center front speaker, so rather than getting a "ghost" image somewhere between the main speakers the sound appears to emanate correctly, from the screen.

The extras this time are relegated to Side 2 of the disc, and you'll be glad to flip the disc over to see them. Well, one of them anyway. The best extra is a full length documentary "Lana Turner…A Daughter's Memoir" that's a fascinating and, at times, moving and heartbreaking look into the life and career of this Hollywood legend, told through the eyes of the daughter she was too busy to mother. Turner's life appears to be the stuff from which "The Bad and the Beautiful" was conceived, and it's a powerful juxtaposition.

You also get a selection of music scoring cues (the film has a great score, by the way), the trailer for this film and its sequel Two Weeks in Another Town, as well as some production notes.

The Bad and the Beautiful, from Warner Home Video
119 min. black and white, full screen (not 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono.
Starring Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell
Produced by John Houseman
Written by Charles Schnee, Directed by Vincente Minelli


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Updated May 13, 2006