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    The Kid Stays in the Picture

    "The kid" is more than all right

    The autobiography of '70s movie mogul Robert Evans is brought to the screen with irresistible inventiveness in "The Kid Stays in the Picture."


    In 1956, Robert Evans was sitting poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel when Norma Shearer ("The Divorcee") approached him and asked him if he was an actor. He wasn't — he and his brother owned Evan-Picone, a women's clothing line on the east coast ("I like to say I was in women's pants," jests Evans) — but there was something about his poise, his confidence, and his Chet Baker-like good looks that prompted Shearer's next question: "Would you like to play my husband Irving Thalberg in the upcoming 'Man of a Thousand Faces'?" (The film was to star James Cagney as horror maestro Lon Chaney.)

    Directed by: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen.
    Written by: Brett Morgen.
    Cast: Robert Evans, Phyllis George, Ali MacGraw, Dustin Hoffman, Phyllis George..

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    "What the heck. Sure."

    This was Evans's unexpected launch into the world of motion pictures. A short acting stint admittedly — he next played a matador in an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" and then bottomed out with the over-the-top killer thriller "The Fiend Who Walked the West" (lots of name-above-the-credits eye-rolling in that one).

    But it was a quote from "Rises" producer Darryl F. Zanuck that started Evans on the road to mega movie producer-dom. Many of the big names associated with the film — Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, and Hemingway himself — had all written to Zanuck imploring him to pull Evans from the shoot (they wanted a name actor in the role of Pedro Romero, not some pretty boy with zero experience). But Zanuck took one look at Evans in his bullfighter attire and yelled the immortal line "The kid stays in the picture!"

    That's when Evans knew what he wanted to do with his life. That's what he wanted to do, be the guy who decides whether or not the other guy stays, or leaves.

    "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is the name of Evans's autobiography (reprinted in more than a dozen languages to date) and now a fascinating new documentary from filmmakers Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein. It skips the charismatic Hollywood producer's early years and picks up poolside, with that Shearer chat-up line.

    At the age of 34, with no producing credits to his name, the charming Evans landed a job as chief of production at Paramount Pictures. With the likes of "Rosemary's Baby," "Love Story," "Harold and Maude," "The Odd Couple," "Romeo and Juliet," "Marathon Man," and a little flick called "The Godfather," Evans took Paramount from struggling ninth place to the top of the Hollywood heap in the late '60s/early '70s. Morgen and Burstein chronicle this rise (and subsequent fall, including a failed marriage to actress Ali MacGraw, a cocaine bust, and rumored ties to a Cotton Club murder) through a variety of effective techniques, especially the use of 3D cutouts, as well as computer animation, archive photographs, newsreel footage, and a smoky voiceover from Evans himself.

    The way Morgen and Burstein tell their tale is almost as good as the tale itself: it's polished and extremely creative, with the arresting visuals — including recent footage of Evans's French Regency estate with its garden of 2,000 rosebushes, ornately tiled pool, and Degas originals — moving the story apace (impressively so, given how much still material there is in the film). As a result "The Kid Stays in the Picture" is a motion picture of which Evans himself should be proud, an entertaining, slickly produced, and eminently satisfying biopic.

    AUGUST 31, 2002

    Reader comments on The Kid Stays in the Picture:

  • movie was great   from kevin, May 29, 2003
  • [no subject]   from Conrad Grenfell, Jun 12, 2003
  • [no subject]   from Conrad Grenfell, Jun 12, 2003
  • [no subject]   from , Oct 24, 2003
  • Amazing!   from Paul Nantais, Oct 24, 2003
  • SPECTACULAR!!   from Will Smith, May 17, 2004
  • kids stays in pictures   from vickie, Mar 4, 2009

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