Vincente Minnelli’s 1952 movie about the movies wears its golden-era confidence as big and bold as Kirk Douglas’s shoulder pads, and it’s pretty close to film heaven. Douglas plays egomaniac Hollywood mogul Jonathan Shields, who once betrayed anyone who ever crossed his path. Now he’s bankrupt, living in Paris on his uppers.
Back in Los Angeles, three of the old faithful recount in flashback how he sold them up the river: an actress he tossed aside (Lana Turner); the director whose idea he stole (Barry Sullivan); a novelist he lured to Hollywood (Dick Powell).
‘He’s more than a man, he’s an experience,’ someone says. And Douglas gives a terrific study of male ego, all relaxed charm and going places. There’s something touching, admirable even, in his ruthless devotion to his pictures. The script is full of delicious, on-the-money Hollywood satire, and for all its blowsy melodrama a startling scene sees Turner’s actress attempt suicide while driving on the freeway. What’s more, the dialogue is dynamite. Here’s one dame speaking with been-around-the-block weariness: ‘There are no great men. Only men.’