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In The Bad and the Beautiful, Kirk Douglas plays a tyrannical, manipulative producer fallen on hard times. To get back on his feet, he asks for help from three Hollywood giants whose careers he helped launch--a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner), and a writer (Dick Powell). Unfortunately, they all hate him. Flashbacks explain why. Douglas had been close to all three at different points in his career: He and the director started out together making B-movies, he gave the wayward actress her first starring role, he turned the novelist into a successful screenwriter. Then in one way or another he stabbed each of them in the back, though not always deliberately. The script has a lot of backstage clichés, but Vincente Minnelli's sharp, energetic direction, the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, and the topnotch performances--particularly Douglas and Gloria Grahame, who won an Oscar for her sweet role as the writer's cheerful Southern wife--flesh out the clichés with cutting details and convincing bile. Caustic, starry-eyed, and slyly funny, The Bad and the Beautiful is a strange and skillful blend of "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere" pluck and poisonous cynicism, one of the great movies about making movies. --Bret Fetzer
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