Documentaries and Books

The Kid Stays in the Picture

In Vincente Minnelli’s brilliant The Bad and the Beautiful, Kirk Douglas gives one of his best performances as Hollywood Producer Jonathan Shields. Shields is self-destructive, ruthless and a user of people, yet he is also so talented and understands film so well that everyone in Hollywood wants to work with him anyway. I thought of Shields frequently as I watched the absolutely mesmerizing 2002 documentary about Robert Evans: The Kid Stays in the Picture.

This is MUST viewing for film buffs, as the raconteur/rascal/genius recounts his unique career from his discovery by Norma Shearer to his failed acting career to his shockingly successful transformation into a producer, to disaster, to saving Paramount, to more disaster, and to a late-life return to the business. Evans knew everybody (Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw, Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, and on and on) and may understand Hollywood as well as anyone.

You do not have to believe Evans is a factually reliable narrator to enjoy this film. He was clearly born to seduce other people, as his seven ex-wives could attest, and his stories glow from the luster of repeated tellings. But his love of cinema and his deep knowledge of stars and studios are unmistakable. There is also a great deal of humor in the movie, including a hilarious extended parody of Evans by Dustin Hoffman, who later went even further in that vein in Wag the Dog.

The other impressive thing about this documentary is that Producer/Co-Director Nanette Burnstein and her team created a kinetic, eye-catching film despite working heavily from still photos and old clips. The arresting look of this movie is almost as captivating as the content.