“The Bad And The Beautiful” won five Academy Awards including Best Supporting Actress Gloria Grahame, Best Cinematography, Best Screenplay, Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction.
It's a major challenge when filmmakers decide to make movies about their livelihood; given the complex personalities of actors, directors and producers, and the bottom-line reality of the film business, the greatest challenge is avoiding heavy sentimentality, and a special brand of ponderous melodrama that still thrives in television soap operas.
"The Bad and the Beautiful" holds up pretty well because of Charles Schnee's wry, smart script (based on George Bradshaw's "Tribute to a Badman" story), and the stellar cast of veteran star and character actors (including Barbara Billingsley!) who were pretty familiar with the colourful personalities and rampant egos of their business. Though director Vincent Minnelli used lengthy takes throughout the film, most incorporate an ever-moving camera, including some stunning crane shots which swoop and glide across fairly intimate sets.
There's a few occasional marks and blemishes on the print, but Warner's DVD beautifully preserves the high-contrast black & white cinematography by Robert Surtees. The mono soundtrack is clean, with the dialogue well-balanced between David Raksin's rich score.
Like a handful of previous classic releases, Warners has chosen to include indexed musical highlights from the original soundtrack on the supplemental "B" side. Many cues contain introductory studio chatter; and the music is a nice extra that gives filmmusic fans the chance to hear a previously unreleased score. Another archival bonus is a letterboxed (though non-anamorphic) trailer for "Two Weeks In Another Town," and text pages for cast, crew, and the film's awards.
The last goodie is the Turner Movie Classics documentary "Lana Turner: A Daughter's Memoir." Narrated by Robert Wagner, the doc expertly covers her entire career, from her near-mythic discovery at a drugstore diner, to her final, rekindled relationship with daughter Cheryl Crane.
Crane, a veteran of her mother's multiple marriages and survivor of alleged sexual abuse by one-time ‘Tarzan' Lex Barker, articulates her mother's difficult life, and offers a great deal of personal anecdotes and insight on Turner's career. From Turner's sudden move from 'sweater girl' (you'll see why) to MGM's replacement blonde bombshell (after Jean Harlow's sudden death in 1937), Turner is seen as one of Hollywood's gutsy women who managed to successfully (most of the time) fight with Louis B. Mayer for better roles, and when rudely dumped by her studio because of her age, reinvigorated her career with successful tear-jerkers (like "Peyton Place"), even enjoying a percentage of the box office take. There's a generous assembly of interviews with Turner's friends and colleagues - including Robert Stack and Kirk Douglas - and clips from her films up to 1966's "Madame X."
© 2002 Mark R. Hasan