The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952

This one is for aspiring novelists. Have you been told your stories are great except for your wooden characters, poor timing, and lack of tension? This movie should get you back on track.

Kirk Douglas plays Jonathan Shields the discouraged son of much-hated movie mogul Hugo Shields who left him no inheritance. After he paid people to be mourners at his dad’s funeral, he took up the mantle and became insanely determined to change the way people saw the name Shields.

Jonathan met Fred (Barry Sullivan), a man struggling to make an appearance on the big screen as a movie director because he was too humble to get the words out to promote his great talent. Jonathan met Georgia (Lana Turner), the depressed daughter of a well-known actor who hid his alcoholism from everyone but his daughter. And later in his career, Jonathan met writer Jim (Dick Powell) whose beautiful wife was a constant interruption to his career. All three held a grudge against Shields, but all three had reason to thank him for their career success.

Vincente Minnelli directed The Bad and the Beautiful very well, but missed out on getting an Oscar for it. Academy Awards went to Gloria Grahame, who played Jim’s wife Rosemary and won Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and to Charles Schnee for Best Writing, Screenplay. Oscars were also won for Best Art Direction/Set Direction in a Black and White, Best Cinematography in a Black and White, and Best Costume Design in a Black and White. Kirk Douglas was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role, but Gary Cooper won that year for his role in High Noon.

There is much to learn from this story. Jim the writer’s oft-repeated line in this story is, “I started to work.” That’s a familiar line with a lot of writers. Failures and successes come and go, but the determined will keep trying until they get another success.

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