Monday, June 24, 2013

The Grapes of Winter vs. The Spanish Armada

One last Eleanor Parker movie for this month shows up tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM on TCM: The Oscar. Parker isn't the star; she's only one of many big names in smaller parts of this all-star disaster.

The real star is Stephen Boyd, playing Frank Fane. We see him at the beginning of the movie sitting in the audience at the Academy Awards, where MC Bob Hope is presenting and about to give out the award for Best Actor. Fane is up for that award. And so, the movie flashes back to how Fane made it to this point.... It's a sordid story. Fane started off somewhere in middle America with Hymie Kelly (Tony Bennett) and their gal pal Laurel (Jill St. John), who is a stripper. Eventually, circumstances force Fane to move to New York, and he proceeds to start walking over everybody there before he goes to Hollywood and works his way to the top and that Oscar nomination.

And when I say "everybody", I mean almost everybody in Hollywood. The movie is filled with a lot of stars in the smaller parts, as I mentioned in the introduction, as well as some famous names playing themselves. Normally off-camera types showing up here as themselves include Hedda Hopper (although she was also in Sunset Blvd. playing her gossip-columnist self) and costumer Edith Head, who gets to put clothes on Fane's Hollywood girlfriend, Kay Bergdahl (played by Elke Sommer, who at least gets to look good here). As for the multitude of actors playing characters, Star of the Month Parker plays a New York talent scout who discovers Fane in New York; Milton Berle plays his agent; Broderick Crawford plays a sheriff who arrests them at the beginning of the movie; Ernest Borgnine plays a detective married to Edie Adams; Joseph Cotten plays a movie producer; and on and on.

The only thing is; all of them are let down by a terrible script. The movie is one of those that's firmly in the "so bad it's good" category. Tony Bennett couldn't act, and never took a role other than cameos as himself after this. Everybody else goes way, way over the top. And yet, it's so much fun to watch.

The Oscar has, as far as I know, never received a DVD release, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showings. I believe the last time it ran on TCM, they were only able to get a pan-and-scan print, which is a shame.

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