hi.

Some movies actually ARE written to corrupt the Youth - a criticalmiddle finger to "The Bad and the Beautiful"

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) is a great, great movie. But its morals are so perversely corrupted that it makes a blaspheming fornicator like me choke on my marijuana tea and slap my gay AIDS-infected stem-cell researcher husband with my stack of Sesame Street porn comic books.  What I'm trying to say is that it's morally corrupt.

The vehicle of the story is slightly hacky: old-timer studio head reunites a director, an actress, and a screenwriter who all have had their souls shat upon in one way or another by one Jonathan Shields (Kurt Douglas), a producer with a ridiculous chin who's asking for one more collaboration from each of them.  Each of these characters, good at heart, hard workers, perhaps a bit too trusting, each tells the story (via flashback) of why no court on the planet would convict them of second degree chainsaw massacre of this asshole.

After each episode, the studio head (played by Walter Pidgeon channeling my middle school librarian) brushes aside any and all of the hurt done by Shields by reminding them how they actually owe their professional success to his influence, to which the characters have no response.   I will provide an example so that you and I may hate as one.

James (Dick Powell) writes a book on the history of Virginia that Jonathan Shields wants to turn into a movie.  James is a man after my own heart: quiet, curmudgeonly, intellectual, plagued by a chatterbox wife.  The couple go to Hollywood where Jimbo is Jedi-mind-tricked into writing the screenplay for this man whom he doesn't trust nor like (again, like me).  After two weeks attempting to be creative in an environment that is completely opposite from what he's used to, he hasn't given Jon-boy the gold that Jonathan feels he's entitled to, because it's unTHINKable that he could have made the wrong choice in his screenwriter!  And utilizing the keen omniscient telepathic powers possessed by every Hollywood producer, Jonny concludes that it's the wife's fault (not the car horns, telephone calls, or unfamiliar office, all of which were established as ALSO interfering with James' creative process).

He takes James to some weird gay lumberjack commune up in the himalayas (you know, every writer's natural environment), and to keep Mrs. James out of everyone's hair, he requests that smooth Latin film sensation Senor Gaucho "squire" (his word) the wife while James and Jon are out of town.  He does not tell James about this.

A week goes by and the script is done.  James comments how surprised he was that his wife didn't call a single time!  Jonathan smirks a pimp's smirk under his  fucking tiny, TINY mustache (why do those make me so ANGRY) and says something asshole-ish like "Yes, that was something, wasn't it", his erection no doubt growing at the thought of James' wife getting ploughed Mexican style while James typed his fingers to the bone to make Mr. Shields another million.

Well, whaddaya know, but Gaucho has rammed his private jet into a mountain, killing both him and Mrs. James (ladies, NEVER "squire" your man while he's flying).  The press find out that the flight plan was for Acapulco and James enters and leaves his mourning process thinking that his wife sought out the arms of another man because James was an asshole (which he is SO not).

James and Jonathan become friends and make a few pictures, all successful.  Preparing for the next, Jonathan says "God, we could have really used Gaucho on this one.  I told him not to take that stupid plane!"  Oops.  It all becomes clear to Mr. Screenwriter.  Jonathan tenderly attempts to reconcile the situation by saying "Gaucho didn't kill her, I didn't kill her.  She killed herself!   She was no good for you, she was no good for your work.  You're better off this way."  James gets one good punch in, but in my opinion it wasn't enough.  Jonathan's face should be salsa at this point.

Cut back to the studio head's office, and he says to James "Now you're a Pulitzer Prize-winning author commanding the highest screenwriter's salary in Hollywood."  James looks chastened, and Studio Head moves on to his next topic.

EXCUSE ME!?!  WE'RE CONDONING THE CUCKOLDING AND EVENTUAL WIDOWHOOD OF A HUMAN MALE BECAUSE HE GOT A MEDAL AND A PAYCHECK!?!  No, we cannot blame Jonathan for the wife's death, but his (and the exec's) view that James should forgive him for putting his wife into the situation that killed her because it ultimately benefitted James (and Jonathan, let's not forget) is sick, deplorable, and not the basis upon which to build an audience's sympathy for the character.

If the point of the film was to show a mind twisted by the hungers of Hollywood into the vile manipulation of those close to him, then I would agree with the approach taken here.  But the final image in the movie is all three characters seriously considering proceeding with Shields' next project, implicitly forgiving him all his ills.  The evil done by this man in the name of his profession (no, his greed) just cannot be expunged by recounting the professional and monetary benefits of his collaborations.  The three characters in the film had horrible life experiences as a result of knowing this man, for which we have no reason to believe that he ever regretted or atoned.

See this movie, for its great performances and excellent construction both literarily and photographically.  But do not let it make up your emotional mind for you (as most films from this era do).  I am starting a list in my head titled "Films that Make the Opposite Point of What They Should" and I'm putting The Bad and the Beautiful right at top.

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