November 15, 2002 -- "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is a fascinating look at the topsy-turvy life of a high powered Hollywood producer that is far stranger than any work of fiction. Robert Evans came to Hollywood without a thought of getting into the movie business, ended up running the number one studio in Hollywood against all odds, then crashed and burned, but like Phoenix rose from the ashes to become a powerful Hollywood producer again.
Based on Evans' autobiography, the movie is narrated by Evans and is highlighted by photos from Evans' own collection. Using unusual techniques, still photos take on three-dimensional qualities in the film. Backgrounds move in relation to the foregrounds, the camera seems to be able to pan around within the still photo, scenery zooms past the windows of cars in still photos. This breathes more life into the film. Film clips and television footage is also used in the film, along with new footage shot for the film. At times, Evans uses his voice to speak the lines of other people, as if he is acting out scenes in his own life. The overall result is a unique documentary, which may not be entirely factual, but it sure gets Evans' point of view across. While he is not above patting himself on the back, he can also be ruthlessly critical of himself as well. Much of the complexity of Evans' personality is revealed in the film.
Evans came to Hollywood on a business trip in the 1950s working for his family's New York clothing business. The handsome Evans was spotted by a major Hollywood player in his swimsuit by the side of a pool and he was offered a role in a movie. He landed an important role in "The Sun Also Rises," based on the Hemingway novel. Ernest Hemingway and other influential people were angered over the casting choice and petitioned the producer, the legendary Darryl F. Zanuck, to use a different actor. Zanuck defiantly said, "The kid stays in the picture and anybody who doesn't like it can quit." Right then, Evans knew, he wanted to be a producer like Zanuck so he could say those words. After his acting career fizzled, Evans was able to get an option on a book called "The Detective" and shopped it around as a possible movie idea. He sold the idea to a studio and was able to leverage his option into an office and a studio job. He became noticed because of a timely news article and was made the head of a struggling studio named Paramount. He quickly hired the reporter who wrote the story that got him the job.
At the time he became the top man at Paramount, the studio was ranked ninth in Hollywood, far behind the giants such as Warner Brothers, MGM and Universal. One of the first projects Evans worked on was "Rosemary's Baby," which became a big hit. Evans talks about the problems with the film, including the divorce of the film's star, Mia Farrow, from Frank Sinatra during filming. Farrow was under pressure from Sinatra to quit the film so she could work with Sinatra on another film, "The Detective," yep, that's the same film that Evans had optioned earlier. Evans was able to talk Farrow into finishing "Rosemary's Baby," but that resulted in the divorce. Frank insisted on having things his way. Despite the movie's success, Gulf Western, the owner of Paramount, planned to shut the studio down. Evans had a short movie done (starring Evans) to explain upcoming film projects to the Gulf Western Board of Directors and flew with it to New York to try to save the studio.
One of the projects Evans was working on when he spoke to the board was a film called "Love Story." The board decided not to shut the studio down. "Love Story" was released and became a box office smash hit, saving the studio. Under the guidance of Evans, and his reporter pal, Paramount became number one after a series of hits such as "The Godfather," "Chinatown," and "Marathon Man." Evans tells an interesting story about "The Godfather." Some say it isn't true, but it is interesting nonetheless. Evans said the first cut of "The Godfather" was only about two hours long. Evans delayed release of the film and ordered director Francis Ford Coppola to make it longer. It ended up being almost three hours long after it was re-edited.
Evans says he lives and dies by the press. A newspaper article got him his first big break. Another would later lead to his downfall. The story of his downfall, his entanglement in a murder mystery, and of his subsequent rise again are among the many amazing stories in this film. Along the way, he married a famous actress, only to lose her to a famous actor. Evans' life has more ups and downs than a roller coaster. It is truly amazing he is still around, still making films after all he has been through, including a very serious stroke and other medical problems. Evans is a true survivor. Only in Hollywood.
There are some serious problems with the quality of images in the film. Some appear to have been gotten from grainy home movies, video tapes and blurry still photos. There is one memorable photo of Jack Nicholson in a hilarious semi-nude pose. Most of the footage in the film is of average quality. The real strength of the film is the incredible story and the wit, charm and candor of Evans himself. This is a must-see film for students of Hollywood and film buffs. The story spans an important era in Hollywood from the last days of the old studio system to the current star and blockbuster-driven system. This film rates a B.
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