THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE
Review by Michael Jacobson
Directors: Brett Morgen, Nanette Burstein
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: August 19, 2003
it worth it? You bet your ass it
Evans was, and continues to be, a larger-than-life figure.
The story of his life, his successes and his failures is so incredible
that had it been conceived as fiction, no one would have bought into it.
That's part of what makes the documentary The Kid Stays in the
Picture such an achievement. Had
it simply come from some writer's imagination, it wouldn't have worked. But the story is very real, so we hang on every turn with
keen anticipation and emotional resolve as we learn about how this man made it
to the top of a seemingly unscalable mountain, only to find out what a long way
there was for him to fall.
Evan's life plays like a collection of tall tales, yet every one of them is
true. How as a once-failed actor
turned businessman, he attracted the attention of Hollywood icon Norma Shearer
at a swimming pool in Beverly Hills, who offered him the role of her late
husband Irving Thalberg in the Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand Faces.
How within six months, Fox mogul Daryl Zanuck hand picked him to play
the matador in The Sun Also Rises. How
the cast of that movie, along with novelist Ernest Hemingway, tried to get him
fired from the movie. And how
Zanuck, after watching him play a couple of scenes, made the now legendary
proclamation, “The kid stays in the picture.”
that's barely the start of Evans' adventure in Hollywood.
Recognizing himself to be a second-rate actor, he turned his ambition
toward producing. At that time, no movie actor had ever made such a leap.
But earning a three picture deal at Fox was only the beginning.
Soon, the Gulf+Western corporation would buy Paramount, and a young
Robert Evans would soon find himself running a major Hollywood studio.
dream come true? Not really.
At the time, Paramount was in last place in Hollywood.
Evans set out to change that starting by brining in good properties to
turn into great films. His first
endeavor was Rosemary's Baby, which not only changed the face of the
modern horror picture, but brought American attention to Roman Polanski as a
director as well. Yet his first success was hardly smooth sailing.
You'll marvel as Evans had to face no less an adversary than Frank
Sinatra himself as a hurdle to completing his picture!
the time he was ready for his second major success in Love Story, he
faced an even bigger challenge. Gulf+Western
had decided to pull the plug on Paramount in 1970.
Asking for a half hour of the board's time, Evans single handedly
stopped the dismantling of the studio with a promotional film he made with
director Mike Nichols (it's included in its entirety on this DVD).
Evans was a gambler at heart. He
rolled the dice and won. Without
that chutzpah, there might have been no more Paramount.
No Godfather movies. No
Apocalypse Now. No Chinatown.
It's almost unimaginable.
Evans string of sevens continued, though never without a share of difficulties.
The Godfather became an American classic, yet he had to fight
almost every step of the way to get his talented but still unproven director,
Francis Ford Coppola, to make the movie into the epic he know it could be.
During Love Story he had wooed and married star Ali MacGraw, only
to lose her while his attentions were so wrapped up in his Mafioso movie.
Chinatown also became a classic, but he had to deal with the
indignity of having Roman Polanski's name more prominent than his, though
Polanski spent only 9 months on the picture while Evans worked on it for 4-5
became the number one studio of the 70s, but the 80s would bring troubles to
Robert Evans, starting with a drug bust that soiled his reputation in some
circles, and cumulating in the now legendary scandal of The Cotton Club murder.
Though Evans was never named as a suspect and frankly had nothing to do
with the crime, the attention his name brought to the story stigmatized him and
his studio. And Paramount, the
company that was literally saved from the wrecking ball by Evans, would be
asking him to resign.
Kid Stays in the Picture is a remarkably well made documentary based on a remarkable story.
Robert Evans himself narrates based on his own autobiography in a
pleasant voice that shows his charm, even when he makes eyebrow raising asides,
like calling Polanski “the little Polack” or Ali MacGraw “Snotnose”, or
venting his anger on Coppola by asking him if he left the best part of the movie
“in his kitchen with his spaghetti”. Not
exactly PC, but it's all a part of what makes Evans such a colorful character.
As I said, no writer could have dreamed up Robert Evans and made him
believable. It's an extraordinary
life that had to be lived for real or not at all.
Robert Evans is still with us and still doing what he does best.
His glory days of the 70s may be behind him, but thankfully at last, so
is the scandal that almost ruined him. He's
back at Paramount, and he's still producing pictures with a degree of success.
The Saint, with Val Kilmer, was a $100 million plus hit.
It was no Godfather, but it proved that Evans still had the touch.
documentary is a mix of new and vintage footage, photographs animated to look
like (gasp!) moving pictures, and pieces through the years shot on both video
and film. The resulting hodgepodge
is still a pleasant viewing experience, though unavoidably hit and miss in the
margins. The fresh footage of
Evans' beautiful California home is stunningly detailed and richly colorful.
Older film and TV clips may show some age, but overall, they hold up
pretty well and serve to remind us of the temporal scope of the story.
5.1 audio is nicely done…though undemanding by nature, the filmmakers still
manage to bring in the rear stage to accentuate crowd noise or bits of
overlapping dialogue. The music,
which features many popular songs of the era, is a nice touch, and Evans' own
voice is a pleasant, resonating one that keeps us engrossed in his story.
addition to a trailer and a commentary by directors Brett Morgen and Nanette
Burstein, the features are divided up into two sections.
“The Truth According to Bob” shows the aforementioned film that saved
Paramount, and “The Kid Speaks” showing clips of different Bob Evans
speeches, including receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Producers
Truth According to Others” features TV and film clips of OTHERS speaking about
Bob, from showgirls to celebrities like Larry King, Jack Valenti, Matthew
McConaughey, Brett Ratner and others. There
is also a gag reel from “Marathon Man” as Dustin Hoffman parodies his boss