The Kid Stays In The Picture

Dir: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen, 2002. Starring: Robert Evans. Documentary.
The Kid Stays In The Picture

The autobiography The Kid Stays In The Picture by one time hot-shot studio head and producer Robert Evans may be the only book to have gained a cult following with its audio recording. Evans reads from his own pages, and his cool persona as a guy with a lot of regret and a lot of amazing memories are quite entertaining. The film version uses those audio recordings for narration and a lot of archive footage, film clips, and most creatively still pictures with a 3-D effect to tell this rather astounding story of Evans' miraculous Hollywood rise and then devastating fall.

At first Evans was in the clothing business in New York with his brother. And then one lucky break after another happened for the tanned haberdasher. Famously, on a business trip to Los Angeles he was “discovered” by Norma Shearer while lounging by the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He was thrust into a minor acting career playing Irving Thalberg in the Lon Chaney bio A Man Of A Thousand Faces and then Pedro the bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises. That was the peak as an actor but he soon became an independent producer developing The Detective with Frank Sinatra. With Gulf & Western taking over Paramount Pictures out of seemingly nowhere Evans was made the Head of Production.

What at first looked like a potential disaster ended up becoming revolutionary. Under Evans' leadership Paramount went though a boom period, with films like Rosemary’s Baby, Love Story, True Grit, Harold and Maude, and then he made the blockbuster The Godfather. Being a studio head fit Evans like a glove, palling around with Jack Nicholson and Roman Polanski, he enjoyed the Hollywood scene and was a swinging bachelor until he met the actress Ali MacGraw. He fell madly in love, eventually marrying and having a kid with her.

Too much bliss led to the beginning of Evans downfall. His career peaked as the producer of the masterpiece Chinatown and then as a producer at Paramount with hits like Marathon Man and Black Sunday, Evans was on a big-time roll. But while MacGraw was on location shooting The Getaway, she fell in love with her co-star Steve McQueen. She took the kid and left Evans. Devastated, Evans took to the nightlife again and this time fell in love with a new starlet - cocaine - which led to his involvement with shady characters and eventually even a murder trial. Though he was cleared of any wrongdoing, he lost his job at Paramount. Evans was done as a Hollywood big shot.

The Kid Stays In The Picture is one amazingly entertaining documentary. Using film clips like Evans' promotional clips for Paramount Pictures and scenes of his hilariously awful performance as The Fiend Who Walked The West (a dreary Western remake of Kiss Of Death) help make this a brisk ride. Besides telling Evans' saga it also is another tale of that great period in film from the late '60s through the '70s when the studios collapsed and so many important directors and writers came of age. Evans played such a key role personally bringing Polanski, Hal Ashby, Robert Towne, and Francis Ford Coppola into the big time fold.

On his follow up to The Kid Stays In The Picture, co-director Brett Morgan would take the three-dimensionalization of old photographs to a new level. With the documentary Chicago 10 the use of photos would be digitally animated, creating a three-dimensional quality that resembled The Beatles Sgt Pepper's album cover (while actors provide the voices, to the famously rebellious trial).

The gossip and the stories Evans spins are fascinating. The guy has lived a lot of life; the film perfectly expresses it. His narration is part hard-boiled private eye and part smooth playboy. That explains why Evans seems in real life to come off as a cross between a Raymond Chandler character and Hugh Heffner. He’s a guy that plays all the angles, seems to roll the dice and usually wins, and is very smooth doing it. Though underneath the cool he’s still nursing his broken heart both from losing MacGraw and maybe worse, losing his Hollywood status.

Posted by:
Sean Sweeney
Jun 6, 2011 8:28pm
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