Robert De Niro and Ingrid Boulting in The Last Tycoon (1976)


(director: Elia Kazan; screenwriters: Harold Pinter/from the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald; cinematographer: Victor J. Kemper; editor: Richard Marks; music: Maurice Jarre; cast: Robert De Niro (Monroe Stahr), Theresa Russell (Cecilia Brady), Tony Curtis (Rodriguez), Robert Mitchum (Pat Brady), Jeanne Moreau (Didi), Jack Nicholson (Brimmer), Ray Milland (Fleishacker), Dana Andrews (Red Ridingwood), Ingrid Boulting (Kathleen Moore), Donald Pleasence (Boxley), Peter Strauss (Wylie), John Carradine (Tour guide), Jeff Corey (Doctor), Morgan Farley (Marcus), Tige Andrews (Popolos), Angelica Huston (Edna); Runtime: 122; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Sam Spiegel; Paramount Home Video; 1976)
“It’s a film that takes Hollywood too seriously and seems to worship with piety at its altar, but was too awkwardly presented to mean much.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Flatulent adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fragmentary unfinished 1941 final novel on Hollywood during the 1930s. Perhaps the best things that can be said about it, is that it’s uneven and makes for some interesting star gazing in its illustrious cast. It’s also the last film directed by Elia Kazan (“Boomerang!”/”Panic in the Streets”/”Baby Doll”). The uninvolving screenplay is filled with too many listless pregnant pauses by Harold Pinter. Robert De Niro is the sole actor who comes out smelling like a rose in the role of the hot-shot movie mogul Monroe Stahr, loosely based on MGM’s “boy genius” production chief Irving Thalberg. Thalberg died in 1936 at the age of 37, and was recognized as one of the few producers who put art before commerce. The real “boy wonder” went out on top before Hollywood was taken over by the Wall Street types who worried only about the bottom line, which is unfortunately how the fictional character played by De Niro fell from power.

Monroe Stahr (Robert De Niro) is the youthful autocratic head of the studio who rose from humble beginnings in New York’s Lower East Side and still pines that his movie star wife Minna Davis died an early death, as he tends to have an itch for discovering starlets who resemble her. His ally in the studio is top financial executive Pat Brady (Robert Mitchum), his Irish mentor and pal, who later becomes his rival when he teams with oily New Yorker lawyer representing investors (Ray Milland) because Stahr’s ‘artistic’ ideas are getting in the way of commerce.’

The brusque Stahr is seen navigating a typical day at the studio: fluffing off Cecelia (Theresa Russell), Pat Brady’s Bennington College daughter’s sexual advances; offering critiques of several films at once his studio is filming; dressing down a sloppy director (Dana Andrews), giving a pep talk to a jaded old-time writer (Donald Pleasence); dealing confidentially with a matinee idol’s (Tony Curtis) impotency problems with his wife; consoling his temperamental star actress (Jeanne Moreau) after her temper tantrum over makeup; maneuvering in corporate battles and in power struggles within the studio; and all the other day-to-day things a studio executive must deal with. In his personal life Stahr meets an unknown actress who strolled on the set and because she looks like his former wife he carries on an affair with the mysterious English girl (Ingrid Boulting), whom he loves and loses. Jack Nicholson has a cameo as the Commie agitator labor-union organizer lawyer from New York trying to unionize the writers against the objections of the studio bosses.

It’s a film that takes itself and Hollywood too seriously and seems to worship with piety at its altar, but was too awkwardly presented to mean much or be that entertaining or get over its tedium and hollowness. The dialogue is so soggy, it seems to leave the articulate cast almost inarticulate. There was no pep or enthusiasm by anyone for this film accept for De Niro, who inhabits his character with a grace that was otherwise lacking in the film.

The Last Tycoon was the love child of producer Sam Spiegel, who was determined to make it a masterpiece but in his constant interference only made things worse.


REVIEWED ON 12/28/2007 GRADE: C+