Kid Stays in the Picture
review by Elias Savada, 18 October 2002
In a world that is too
often catering to the habits of today's teenagers and
twentysomethings, it's a shame that The Kid Stays in the
Picture's only appreciative audience might be those of us with
memories deep enough to recall the rise and fall and rise again of
one of the industry's true crap-shooting visionaries.
"There are three sides to every
story: my side, your side, and the truth. And no one is lying.
Memories serve each one differently." -- Robert Evans
Life, and feature documentaries
about it, fall somewhere within that learned Evansism. Often
cinematic outcasts in a big screen world of oversized action flicks,
family comedies, and teenage angst melodramas, cinematic "realities"
generally get lost in the boxoffice shuffle. It's generally only
when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences offers the
public what it thinks are the "best of the best" in this category --
something it's done with more than an occasional misinformed hiccup
-- that any filmgoer will even learn these films exist. Then finding
them at your local theater is akin to the search for the holy grail.
Generally you'll wait a few months and find them playing on PBS or a
premium cable network. Thank god for the growing popularity of the
No, I'm not going to get on my
soapbox and urge any of you to rethink your film-going habits, at
least not after the next sentence or three. For those readers
inclined to waste their dollars on Goldmember, The
Master of Disguise, or feardotcom, don't! As penance if
you snookered a date, a friend, or your mother to any of these
films, get thee to a documentary. Get thee to The Kid Stays in
Academy-Award nominated filmmakers
Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein (1998's
On the Ropes) have not only tackled a bigger-than-life
subject, Hollywood producer Evans, but have made it gamely
entertaining. In a world that is too often catering to the habits of
today's teenagers and twentysomethings, it's a shame that The Kid's
only appreciative audience might be those of us with memories deep
enough to recall the rise and fall and rise again of one of the
industry's true crap-shooting visionaries.
Morgen and Burstein's move from the cinéma-verité
style of their earlier feature to a stock footage-based subject has
allowed them to experiment with some well-blended, kitschy sound
tricks and even more exciting visuals and some amusing CGI effects,
something I've not seen heretofore in this genre.
Evans' wildly anecdotal 1994 book and its extremely successful
six-hour audio version, in which the author adds his own notoriously
nuanced delivery, Morgen and Burstein made the only appropriate
decision in adapting the material to film -- making sure Evans was
on board as the non-stop, self-depreciating raconteur with the brick
begin the chronological tale with Evans as the pretty-boy partner
with his brother in Evan-Picone, the family women's clothing
business, to his pool-side discovery by actress Norma Shearer, who
picks him to play her late husband, legendary Hollywood producer
Irving Thalberg, in the Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand
Faces. It was his next role, as a matador opposite Ava Gardner
in The Sun Also Rises, that earned his autobiography and this
film its title. Seems Hemingway and the rest of the cast was furious
at Evans appearing, but it was the celebrated Darryl Zanuck who
insisted that "the kid stays in the picture."
acting career floundered following his lead in The Fiend Who
Walked the West, his greater sense of impeding importance within
the film industry, thanks to a New York Times profile of
Evans. Gulf+Western (then owner of Paramount Pictures) chief Charlie
Bludhorn anointed Evans with a prime position within the studio.
Before he could say "Hollywood, here I come," he was head of
production. Box-office hits and lovely anecdotes follow.
Rosemary's Baby and Mia Farrow. Goodbye, Columbus.
Love Story. The Godfather. Ali MacGraw, a.k.a. Mrs.
Robert Evans then the ex-Mrs. Robert Evans. And on the soundtrack a
hilariously mimic: Evans as Farrow, as MacGraw, as Bludhorn.
quite amusing, Evans' courtship and 1969 marriage to Miss Snotnose.
The near-collapse of Paramount (rescued by a product reel directed
by Mike Nichols for the G+W board featuring Evans as a flashier
version of Rod Serling). The Cotton Club scandal. Murder.
Money. Drugs. The fall of grace for the reigning king of the
during the end credits, the filmmakers had tacked on a truly
hilarious post script featuring twenty-five-year-old footage of
Dustin Hoffman (perhaps some entertainment originally intended for
the wrap party of Marathon Man?) doing his crazed
got-to-be-seen impersonation of a legend in his own mind.
bigger-than-life struggle through success, tragedy, and ultimate
reinvention of self is a perfect story for the big screen. The
public's fascination with all things Hollywood makes this a bonafide
attention grabber; Evans' story and storytelling attributes and
filmmakers' Morgen and Burstein's stylish approach to the subject
makes this a reel crowd-pleaser. Of course it ends with Evans back
on top, right where he expects he should be (and, yes, he's still at
Paramount). Should the sometimes strangely fickle Oscar voters deem
this worthy of a statue next spring, Evans will be back right where
he belongs. Center stage.