Millicent Wetherby is a middle-aged woman whose life is devoid of love and affection. Millicent's solitary existence changes when she encounters Burt Hansen a charismatic younger man. As ... See full summary »
A serial killer has been killing beautiful women in New York and the new owner of a media company offers a high ranking job to the first of his senior executives who can get the earliest scoops on the case.
At a Mexican ranch, fugitive O'Malley and pursuing Sheriff Stribling agree to help rancher Breckenridge drive his herd into Texas where Stribling could legally arrest O'Malley, but Breckenridge's wife complicates things.
Charles Castle is a successful Hollywood actor who has opted for screen success over art. He must make critical decisions regarding his career, his marriage, his art & morality. In this screen adaptation of a Clifford Odets play, Castle is pressured by his studio boss and manipulated into a potentially murderous cover-up to protect his career. An indictment of the amoral world of 50's Hollywood and its corrosive effect upon the artist.Written by
Unless you understand that The Big Knife was Clifford Odets's one finger salute to Hollywood and its mores, you will not understand the film at all. Odets after some bad times in tinseltown went back to his first love which was the theater and wrote this play which ran for 109 performances in the 1949 season on Broadway.
In the lead roles of actor Charlie Castle and producer Marcus Hoff, Odets cast a couple of guys who were having difficulty finding employment in Hollywood at that time as well, kindred spirits from the Group Theater back in the day, John Garfield and J. Edward Bromberg. Garfield who certainly could bring his own life into the part plays Odets himself who had as tempestuous personal life as his creation Charlie Castle. He feels starved creatively because of the junk he's been doing in Hollywood, not the stuff of social significance that Odets did back Group Theater days.
Jack Palance plays Castle in the film and while he does justice to the part I only wish John Garfield had lived to do the screen version of what he created. He had an unceasing rebellion against Warner Brothers for the stereotypical tough guys parts he was being cast in. But just after he broke free came the blacklist.
Rod Steiger is malevolence itself as the producer whom I believe was based on Louis B. Mayer. Odets dealt with him through his then wife Luise Rainer over at MGM. Mayer was not liked even by his fellow studio moguls and he had been toppled in a studio power play at MGM a few years earlier. Had he still been in charge at MGM, I'm willing to bet The Big Knife might never have been made even as an independent film with a United Artists release.
Director Robert Aldrich filled out the rest of the cast with familiar Hollywood names like Ida Lupino as Palance's estranged wife, Everett Sloane as his long suffering agent, Wendell Corey in a role that has to be modeled on MGM's fixer who knew where all the bodies were buried Eddie Mannix, Shelley Winters as the bimbo like starlet who can put an end to Palance's career and Ilka Chase as a Hedda Hopper like columnist who is the self appointed keeper of the Hollywood morals. Chase's scenes are at the beginning of the film and she really has the columnist character dead on.
On stage the entire play is set in the living room of the Palance/Lupino Hollywood style mansion. Like the house in Long Day's Journey Into Night, the opulent living room becomes a character itself, showing the velvet and comfortable trap that Palance is in and why he just can't give up all this comfort, even for the art that used to motivate him.
Odets might have done better had someone else a little more dispassionate had written this based on his memoirs. The Big Knife gets a little too personal at times. And it never quite loses the stage origin even with a few scenes away from the house. But the acting his first rate from a first rate cast. I'd watch The Big Knife as a look into the mind of Clifford Odets.
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