Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
USA, 1962. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Screenplay by Charles Schnee, based on the novel by Irwin Shaw. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by John Houseman. Music by David Raksin. Production Design by George W. Davis, Urie McCleary. Costume Design by Walter Plunkett. Film Editing by Adrienne Fazan, Robert James Kern. Golden Globe Awards 1962.
Vincente Minnelli follows The Bad And the Beautiful a decade earlier with another dark look into the movie business, once again starring Kirk Douglas and written by Charles Schnee. Where his previous film (which he references openly here) examined battling egos in the golden age of Tinseltown, Two Weeks In Another Town, based on the novel by Irwin Shaw, is set in the buzzing city of Rome, where Hollywood responded to the popularity of epics set in ancient times by setting up shop there in the early sixties. Douglas plays a movie star whose best days are behind him, brought out of his relaxation at a rehab clinic and asked to join his friend Edward G. Robinson on the set of a trashy romance movie that he is directing. Robinson wants to get his old buddy back in the game but he has seen better days himself, the material he is working with is subpar and the personalities on the set are a constant headache, from the temperamental male lead (George Hamilton) to the vain ingenue (Rosanna Schiaffino as a cruel portrait of Gina Lollobrigida). Robinson only has two weeks to finish the picture and lock post-production down before his penny-pinching, Carlo Ponti-esque producer takes over the edit, and he begs Douglas to supervise the English dubbing while he completes shooting. When the older of the two becomes ill, Douglas takes over both jobs despite the fact that he is wavering in confidence over his ability to avoid drinking, inspired by the reappearance of the ex-lover (a gorgeous Cyd Charisse) who inspired his downward spiral in the first place. Minnelli never got enough credit for some of the more dramatic films that he made after the success of Gigi, this one was a noted failure at the box office and it’s a shame, it has an uncompromising cynicism but it also features Douglas at his most sympathetic since playing Vincent Van Gogh. It works as something of an anti-Dolce Vita and, coming out only a year after that film, may have seemed too dismal for audiences and critics as Minnelli doesn’t find anything magical in the grimy corners of the Eternal City, just misguided people who try to put their personal relationships above their ambitions but never do. Douglas’ romance with a debuting Daliah Lavi is a sweet counter-melody to the otherwise devastating experience, while Claire Trevor exhausts all patience with her overplayed performance as Robinson’s anxious wife.