(director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: from an Irwin Shaw novel/Charles Schnee; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editors: Robert J. Kern, Jr./Adrienne Fazan; cast: Kirk Douglas (Jack Andrus), Edward G. Robinson (Maurice Kruger), George Hamilton (Davie Drew), Claire Trevor (Clara Kruger), Cyd Charisse (Carlotta), George Macready (Lew Jordan), Erich Von Stroheim, Jr. (Ravinski), Rosanna Schiaffino (Barzelli), James Gregory (Brad Byrd), Joanna Roos (Janet Bark), Daliah Lavi (Veronica), Mino Doro (Tucino); Runtime: 107; MGM; 1962)

“The film borders on soap opera but manages to get beyond it because of Minnelli’ skills as a director and the fine acting from the two male leads.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Vincente Minnelli makes another attempt to get at the Hollywood psyche ten years after his successful venture with the same theme in “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Jack Andrus (Kirk Douglas) is in a private asylum for the last few years in Connecticut after being a big-name movie star and then suffering a nervous breakdown. He hit the bottle, divorced his licentious wife Carlotta (Cyd Charisse), and had a messy car accident. For the last six years he has become a forgotten actor, as he tries to understand what happened.

A telegram comes from the director he’s had a love-hate relationship with, who gave him his big break and with whom he made his best films, Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson). Maurice offers Jack a chance to get back into the picture business with a small part in the film he is finishing up in two weeks in Rome’s Cinecitta. With the asylum doctor’s blessing, he takes the job.

In Rome, he continues his contentious relationship with Kruger and his wife Clara (Trevor), who has a poisonous tongue aimed toward Jack. Kruger has problems with his Italian producer (Doro) about the contract and underneath the guise of success, he is on the ropes. This is his last chance to make a Hollywood film. He had to wait two years just to get a chance to make this film. The has-been director and washed-up actor share a common fate. To make matters worse Kruger must get the film done in two weeks, as there will be no time extension. Kruger is stuck with a major problem — he dubs his films into English at the end of the production. Because of the time restraints, if he doesn’t finish on schedule the producer will do the editing for him. He, thereby, uses his guile to get Jack to dub the film while it is being finished.

The set is bristling with problems and tension. The young actor, who is the star of Kruger’s film, Davie Drew (Hamilton), is depressed that he is a failure as an actor. He is further incensed when at a screening party, his beautiful Italian girlfriend Veronica (Lavi) goes back with Jack to his hotel. This leads the young actor to attack Jack with a knife and after the attack he runs away from the set.

The sexy Carlotta, Jack’s troublesome ex, is in Rome being kept by a tycoon, flaunting her rich lifestyle and tempting Jack to come back with her and also be kept by the tycoon. Through his longing for her and fear to let go completely, Jack will have to face all the things from the past that he has been running away from. He asks himself: How could a man go wrong and not know it?

When Kruger has a heart attack, he takes over directing and gets it done on time. But since he changed some of the script, the hospitalized Kruger and his harpy wife blame him for trying to take the picture away from him.

The point made is that Jack lets go of both his dependence on Kruger and on Carlotta, and is now prepared to return to Hollywood as a director. In other words, he’s cured.

While the topical story is about the business and cynicism involved in making a picture and the vanity of those in the acting field, its deeper concern is with understanding the personal nature of failure, insecurity, and disappointment. The film borders on soap opera but manages to get beyond it because of Minnelli’ skills as a director and the fine acting from the two male leads. Robinson’s performance is nothing short of brilliant, enough to lift this film on his shoulders alone to a loftier dimension.