Vincente Minnelli’s great Hollywood-insider movie The Bad and the Beautiful tells the story of a film producer who alienates all around him. The film is intriguingly connected to Steven Spielberg.
Told in flashback form, The Bad and the Beautiful traces the rise and fall of a tough, ambitious Hollywood producer Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), as seen through the eyes of various acquaintances, including a writer James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell), a star Georgia Lorrison (Lana Turner) and a director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan). Shields ruthlessly uses everyone on the way to becoming one of Hollywood’s top movie makers.
The character of Shields is regarded as a mixture of producer David O. Selznick, Orson Welles and producer Val Lewton. Stories about the film’s basis in fact were so strong that David O. Selznick asked one of his lawyers to view the film but he determined that there were no grounds for a lawsuit.
The alcoholic daughter of an iconic actor, Georgia Lorrison, is thought to be based on Diana Barrymore (aunt of E.T.’s Drew Barrymore who became an alcoholic herself), though it can also be argued that Lorrison includes elements of Minnelli’s ex-wife Judy Garland.
Alfred Hitchcock’s regular cast member Leo G. Carroll plays Henry Whitfield, a ‘difficult’ but fastidious and talented English emigré film director modeled on the “Master of Suspense”. Whitfield’s assistant Miss March (Kathleen Freeman), is based on Hitchcock’s wife and key collaborator, Alma Reville.
Barry Sullivan, who portrays director Fred Amiel, will be cast in three of Steven Spielberg’s television films: Night Gallery’s pilot episode Eyes (1969), L.A. 2017 (1971), and Savage (1973).
Vincente Minelli is famous for some of the most notable film musicals of his time, e.g. An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958). Spielberg, a musical fan himself, must have indulged in his films.
The Bad and the Beautiful results in five Academy Awards out of six nominations, a record for the most awards for a movie that was not nominated for Best Picture nor for Best Director. The song, “The Bad and the Beautiful”, penned by David Raksin, becomes a jazz standard.
The 1995 documentary film A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, presented by Martin Scorsese and produced by the British Film Institute, opens with excerpts from The Bad and the Beautiful. Scorsese directs the film musical New York, New York (1977), starring Vincente Minelli’s daughter Liza Minelli.
In 2002, the United States Library of Congress deems the film “culturally significant” and selects it for preservation in the National Film Registry.