Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hollywood on Rome on Hollywood

Earlier in the month, TCM showed The Bad and the Beautiful as part of its Star of the Month salute to Kirk Douglas. A movie with similar themes is coming up in this week's Kirk Douglas movies: Two Weeks in Another Town, early tomorrow morning at 5:15 AM.

Douglas stars as Jack, an actor/director who is in a sanitarium after succumbing to alcohol and the effects of a nervous breakdown. However, he's needed! A movie production by an American studio over in Rome is going badly wrong, and Jack's help is needed to put things back in order and help the production be completed. So, Jack heads over to Rome, only to find that all the same things that drove him to drink and gave him the nervous breakdown in the first place are waiting for him in Rome.

First, there's the director he has to work with, Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson). Maurice hasn't been in the best of health lately, and matters aren't being made any better for him by the fact that his wife Clara (Claire Trevor) is in Rome with him. She all by herself would be enough to drive a man to drink, and you can't help but think that she's having a terrible effect on her husband. The fact that he ultimately has a heart attack is pretty good evidence of this. This forces Jack to take over directing duties. If he had enough on his plate before, now it's even worse.

Then you have Carlotta (Cyd Charisse). She's Jack's ex-wife, and if Clara drove Maurice to a heart attack, you can see why Carlotta would have driven Jack to drink. She's a party girl, and available, and seems to want to patch things up at least a bit with Jack. And when Jack reaches his breaking point after he has to start directing, you know that Carlotta will be there to satisfy Jack's needs.

To top it all off, there's Davie (George Hamilton), the young American who is the star of the film-within-a-film. He's Jack as Jack was in an earlier time, which means none too easy to work with as well as having taken the stardom that was once Jack's. Jack repays Davie by spending time with the woman who just happens to be Davie's girlfriend.

The result of all this is a movie that's entertaining if not particularly good. Unlike The Bad and the Beautiful, this one plays out as though you've got a bunch of Hollywood types dishing out disguised gossip on other Hollywood types, and if you don't know what they're talking about, you're losing a good deal of the movie. Perhaps back in 1962 everybody "got it", but 50 years on, I sure don't. I wouldn't be surprised if other "Hollywood on Holywood" movies were playing off that same backstage theme, but the other ones hold up better on their own. Two Weeks in Another Town does have some positives, however; most notably is the Italian location shooting in lovely wide screen and color.

As with most of the movies I blog about, Two Weeks in Another Town is worth at least one viewing, even if it's not the greatest.

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