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Robert De Niro,
Young film producer, Monroe Stahr, is a rising star in 1930's Hollywood due to his ability to get anything he envisions done even if it means breaking a few rules. The latest film he's working on stars two popular actors, Rodriguez and Didi, and everyone is sure it'll be a smashing hit when it's done. The times are changing however, since the first guilds and unions are being formed in Hollywood, but Stahr is still sticking to his old ways of doing things in spite of that. His main opponent becomes a union organizer, Brimmer, but Stahr finds ways to deal with him as well. However, in his hubris, Stahr crosses one red line too many when he falls for a young troubled engaged woman called Kathleen Moore and neglects Cecilia Brady, the young daughter of studio executive and Stahr's boss, Pat Brady. Pat becomes furious over this as well as Stahr's other misbehavings and makes it his mission to take Stahr down. Due to all the pressure, Stahr's health starts failing as well. The film is ...
Fitzgerald's unfinished novel about the romantic yearnings of an Irving Thalberg-like mogul (Robert DeNiro) is turned into the screenwriter Harold Pinter's stock in trade: a sphinxlike ballet of omitted information. The mixture of Pinter's ellipsis-strewn dialogue rhythms and the coarseness of the Old Hollywood setting gives the picture a strange, detached mood--cryptic, teasing, vaguely dislikable. DeNiro would nail this sewed-up-kingpin character two decades later in Scorsese's CASINO; here, whether through youthful inexperience or Pinter's deletions, he's remote and untantalizing. The punch of Fitzgerald's story--the hyperefficient chief's destruction through a search for the love he never found--never lands, because Pinter has drawn the character as a pinched, uncommunicative stick who seems to have no inner life. (It doesn't help that the director, Elia Kazan, seems unsure if he wants to communicate that DeNiro's love interest, Ingrid Boulting, is either a vapid lump or a pornographic doll.) Pinter designs most of the scenes to have anti-payoffs; in one--DeNiro's counsel to a panicky, impotent movie star (Tony Curtis)--he seems to have carefully tailored a joke with no punchline. With Theresa Russell, who gives the best performance as the Big Boss' daughter, and Jack Nicholson, in one of his finest tiny-role performances as a strangely fastidious union organizer. Also with Robert Mitchum, Ray Milland, Donald Pleasence, Seymour Cassel, Jeff Corey, and an extremely young, haunted-looking Anjelica Huston.
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