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on May 28, 2003
I saw this autobiographical movie/documentary on cable TV early AM, May 28th, 2003. The story of Mr. Evans and his rise to become one of the top movie producers of the late 20th century is mingled with genuine introspective commentary by the narrator, Robert Evans himself, combined with a sardonic wit, a great sense of humor and irony, and the open admission of the calculated expertise necessary to wangle one's way through the corporate jungle, and above all, the film industry's ultimately most competitive one at that. His own admission of the egotism necessary to accomplish such extraordinary feats, combined with good luck, being in the right place at the right time, sheer hard work, the willingness to take chances and gamble all, based upon one's own faith and belief in the ability to achieve greatness despite the challenge of adversity posed by more conservative investors, studio executives, board members, and critics surrounding him, display the successful achievement of the ultimate challenge; through a combination of greatness, innovation, wit, and sheer balls, and is mingled with his own readiness to admit character flaws, and ultimately his sheer honesty in expressing the results of introspection after total disaster precluded by ultimate success. These can serve as an inspiration to anyone (myself included) seeking to accomplish greatness in whatever field of endeavor they choose, and record for others the testament of a living legend in the field of cinematic production. His portrayal of the ultimate conquest of the greatest human challenge, that of the loss of belief in oneself, mingled with the loss of self itself, triggered by drugs and their progressively insidious control over one's own perception and values, by overcoming these life-threatening situations and gaining back the self-respect and most cherished possessions having been previously lost, is tempered by his own willingness for brutal self-honesty in admitting and characterizing the road from ultimate success to a living hell, and the successful, slow struggle back to comparative normalcy. These all serve as an example of the strength of the human will to accomplish any task set before oneself, despite any adversity, combined with the essential ingredient of raw talent, perceptual insight and sheer drive. This film is a legacy to all who seek to achieve their own breed of greatness. An absolutely MUST SEE MOVIE!
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on February 18, 2004
Robert Evans, if nothing else besides his impressive list of film credits, deserves recognition for being a survivor. His narration of The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on his own autobiography, is a very well-constructed piece of first-person history.
Although the book is substantially better simply because it contains more in the way of details and gossip, the film makes great use of Evans's personal effects and archives to create a seamless timeline of his rise, fall, and subsequent rebirth. The man has to be admired for the sheer drive and force of his personality that he was able to sustain even though he himself admits that in many instances he has acted very stupidly.
The best parts, of course, center around his ascension to the top of the Paramount food chain at a time when everyone thought it was suicide for the company to put him at its head. His descriptions of what was going through his mind at that point of time is illuminating. He is also just old enough to have touched both the "golden age" of Hollywood and the modern era, which makes him somewhat unique.
I would highly recommend seeking out the book if you enjoy this film as it will only serve to supplement the juicy details here. With the release of the film, Evans has gone back and added a postscript that is both poignant and inspiring, if that word can be used for such an individual.
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on August 19, 2003
"The Kid Stays in the Picture," a documentary about famed movie producer and studio head Robert Evans, begins like "The Great Gatsby," a film Evans produced in 1974. To the wistful strains of "What'll I Do?" playing in the background, the camera glides lovingly over the furnishings, pictures and memorabilia that adorn Evans' Bel Air mansion and estate. The comparison is an apt one, for, like Gatsby, Evans was a wunderkind, a handsome young go-getter who knew early on the kind of life he wanted to lead and who willed himself to attain it. With a combination of good looks, charm, ambition and just a bit of plain old-fashioned good luck, he managed to go from being a mediocre movie actor to becoming the head of Paramount Studios in the course of a mere decade. And what a decade it was! Evans had a major hand in not only lifting Paramount from ninth to first place among Hollywood's major studios, but in bringing such films as "Rosemary's Baby," "True Grit," "Love Story," "Chinatown" and, of course, "The Godfather" to movie screens everywhere.
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" is a dream-come-true for hardcore cinephiles, providing a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of the true Golden Ages of Hollywood filmmaking. Evans' story is, in fact, the story of that time, for truly he hobnobbed with virtually every one of the key players responsible for that era. Evans' tale follows a fairly conventional arc for men of his type: the ambitious kid with dreams of larger-than-life glory achieves meteoric success in the entertainment business only to have his ambitions dashed on the shores of rampant egotism, overconfidence and drug addiction. In fact, Evans' life would make perfect fodder for a film of its own, as this documentary and the positive response to it demonstrates. Evans himself narrates the film, and although he tends to be a bit easier on himself than an outsider might have been, he is still willing to chastise himself when he feels it's called for and to render some rather startlingly unflattering assessments of certain major players on the Hollywood scene. He is, also, however, utterly devoted to those he feels have stuck by him through good times and bad, and he is not averse to lavishing praise on others when it is due. One objection to Evans' narration is that he doesn't always speak with the utmost clarity, sometimes making what he says come out garbled and incomprehensible.
As a piece of filmmaking, "The Kid Stays in the Picture" offers a kaleidoscopic array of stills, film clips and reenactments that reflect the temper and mood of the time. Directors Brett Morgan and Nanette Burstein obviously pored through a wealth of material on the subject, culling from it a comprehensive, streamlined and fast-moving narrative that grips the audience with its humor, its sadness and its tribute to the indomitableness of the human spirit. For if Evans' story is about anything, it is about how important it is for each individual to achieve his dreams and how equally vital it is for that same person, once he has fallen down, to pick himself up off the floor so that he can continue pursuing that dream.
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" is a wonderful time capsule for those who love movies. No true film fan should miss it.
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on August 23, 2003
There is a scene in the middle of Brett Morgan and Nanelle Burnstein's documentary, "The Kid Stays In The Picture" which illustrates why its fascinating subject, film producer Robert Evans, has earned his notorious reputation in Hollywood and has been able to survive there for decades.The year is 1969. The United States is not only fighting a war overseas but is in the middle of a major culture war at home. The movie business is a state of disarray. Evans, in charge of film production at Paramount Studios, is called by the company chiefs to fly to New York for a meeting. Rumor has it that not only will Evans and others lose their jobs but Paramount Studios may shut down altogether. Prior to the meeting, Evans has an idea. He hires director Mike Nichols("The Graduate")to film a five minute "advertisment". The ad simply consists of Evans talking to the camera and expounding, as only Evans can, why the future of Paramount should not only continue but why it will it return as a powerhouse in Hollywood. Deceptively straighforward and simple, Evans sways the executives to keep Paramount's gates open and the rest, as they say, is show business history.
"The Kid Stays In The Picture" is a documentary based on Evans' book of the same title. The film is narrated by Evans in a voice that can only be described as undescribable. Evans tells his story, for the most part, chronologically beginning in New York where Evans and his brother, as young adults, were involved in the production of women's clothing. Having childhood ties to the movie business, Evans was discovered(or some would say rediscovered)while swimming in a pool in Beverly Hills. From there, he got a role opposite James Cagney in "The Man With 1,000 Faces." He appeared in two more feature films before it became clear that he didn't have a promising acting career ahead of him. Having always a desire to be behind the camera, Evans moved ahead, made some very smart moves, and ended up being picked by Paramount head Charles Bludhorn to be the top film producer for the studio.
It becomes clear that Evans' rise to the top of the industry is not only due to his take charge and gutsy personality but also his uncanny future vision. At the same time Evans was beginning his career at Paramount in the the mid to late 60's, the youth movement across the country was in full bloom. There was clearly a "new guard" vs "old guard" mentality in Hollywood that
was emerging. Unlike a lot of producers at the time, Evans was smart enough to find and attract the young writers, directors and actors who began to make up the "New Hollywood" in the late 60's and early 70's. With movies like "The Godfather", "Love Story"(he ended up marrying star Ali McGraw), "The Odd Couple", and "Chinatown", Evans moved Paramount from last to first in annual ticket sales.
If Evans' story had stopped in 1975, he would have already been a legend in Hollywood. Unfortunately, in Hollywood, what goes up always comes down, and Evans was no exception. Admitting that prior to the 70's, he rarely drank, Evans tells his story of how he became one of many cocaine victims during the decade and was, ultimately, shunned by Hollwood for years. To make matters worse, by the time the mid- 80's rolled around, Evans' name was being conected to a drug related murder in which he was never a suspect.
All these details are told with fascinating intensity by Evan as he narrates his life story over a surreal montage of still vintage photos and videos. One of things I love about this movie is how honest Evans is with himself. Yes, he may seem cocky or pompous, however, there is a very clear self-depreciating attitude thought out the film as well. He is also not afraid to have some of his contempt(justified or not)spill forward. His famous conflicts with director Francis Ford Coppola are now Hollywood folklore and are documented here(when receiving his Academy Award at the Oscars for "The Godfather", Coppola "forgot" to thank the producer).
After viewing the "The Kid Stays In The Picture", I began to wonder why I loved it so much. I grew up in the 80's and 90's and I didn't really know much about Evans until I read Peter Biskind's masterpiece, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls". That book, along with this film, records an incredible age in Hollywood that exisited in the late 60's and 70's. An age where the films that were produced were films bursting energy and creativity which we have not seen since that time. Producers, directors, actors and other involved wanted to make money but they also wanted to make smart, cutting edge films that didn't always conform. Today, with marketing at the center of the creative element in today's films, conforming is now the desired result. "The Kid Stays In The Picture" recalls a brief period of time in Hollywood when that wasn't so.
Note: Watch the credits of this movie. Dustin Hoffman does an amusing Robert Evans bit.
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on May 26, 2003
Although one would think that the life story of Robert Evans would only be worthy of an E! profile, it makes for a very entertaining documentary that had every right to be released in the theatres.
The film is based on Robert Evans' autobiography and one of the things that I liked about the film was that it leaves pity at the door and tells what seems to be a relatively candid story without too much bull.
I really enjoyed the manner in which the documentary used newspaper clippings and snippets of interviews from yesteryear to tell a really entertaining story. The visuals are quite an ode to the 1930's. As I wastched it I found myself surprised that the story was so entertaining without having to resort to reenactments or spend an unusual amount of time dissecting the many famous people in his life.
Although the story is pretty comprehensive and it gives film lovers a look behind the scenes at the birth of Paramount Pictures and some of it's greatest performing movies, I was left wanting to know more about both the man and the movies. I'd rather watch amovie that leaves me wanting more, than one that leaves me wanting to switch it off.
Although the story of Robert Evans' rapid ascent and subsequent demise is not made out to be a cautionary tale, it does clearly indicate that drugs had much to do with the demise of his professional life and that how he chose to lead his professional life ultimately had a negative effect on matters of the heart. In the end I don't think that he would have wound up changing much if he had to do it over again.
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on August 21, 2003
The Kid Stays In the Picture
The ultimate insider's look at Hollywood, delivered autobiographically by the ultimate insider, Robert Evans. Plus, it's the classic Hollywood story of rags-to-riches, (perhaps with a few iterations?).
The first quarter of the film, describing how he got the keys to the kingdom, are the slowest. However this section is essential, as it emphasizes how one needs both luck and preparation to get a big break. Evans' early ambition is palpable, even 40 years later in the retelling.
For me the movie really took off around the time Evans' started calling the shots at Paramount. His depiction of a Hollywood in the doldrums of an identity crisis really resonated. Enter Rosemary's Baby, and a fascinating description of Polanski, Farrow, and Sinatra. From there we follow a string of hits that typify the movie Renaissance of the 1970's: The Godfather, The Marathon Man, Serpico, Three Days of the Condor (?), Chinatown, and the Parallax View (to name a few) all have a certain gritty realism about them, while simultaneously being highly stylized artistically. The combination invariably leaves the viewer with an ominous sense of foreboding, pessimistic about the prospects of finding truth in a complex and duplicitous world.
Several hits lay ahead in the second half of the 1970's, but we sense Evans was losing his edge, no doubt in part due to drugs. But he parries away discussion of his post McGraw-carousing, let alone his descent into drugs. Also abridged are the backroom politics and hardball which must have helped him succeed. And while we're on the subject of omissions, just how did he AFFORD to repurchase his Shangri-La?
These are minor criticisms though; like the introduction says, there are three sides to every story. And with such a larger than life personality, we learn more from hearing his one side than we would from having a variety of voices chime in. But the central questions this movie inevitably leaves unanswered are, "Just what enabled him to see which stories, in an evolving landscape, would blossom on screen?" "What did he see?" Perhaps these questions are unanswerable. One thing is certain; he's entirely believable when he looks into the camera and says it was all worth it, for the very good reason that he loves what he does.
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on May 25, 2003
This documentary, which is based on Evans' autobiography of the same name, would have been unbearable if Evans didn't take himself so seriously. Evans narrates it with his rough smoker's voice. And the director did the smartest thing by not editing or punching up any of Evans' monolouge. Every piece of narration is from the book verbatim. If you think of the narration in 30's and 40's detective stories with the stereotypical Hollywood slang, you'd have Evans' speaking style. Even when Evans talks about being conncected to an industry murder, you've got to laugh at his casual Hollywood drawl. And this film would be a punchline if Evans didn't have such an impressive track record. He started his career with "Love Story" and made Paramount the top production house with "Marathon Man", "Chinatown" and the "Godfather" series. If anything the film is funny because Robert Evans made great films and had an ego so big I'm sure Paramount had to house it in a separate building. However, there's also some heart to the film. Evans did get kicked around a lot in the eighties and for moment, it seemed like he couldn't evolve with the industry. (He was responsible for "Jade" and "The Out Of Towners") But, the ending images are of a man who is so immersed the art of the deal, he just won't give up. And since this film, he has produced "How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days". That kind of single minded devotion (or stubbornnes) is admirable. However, even if the industry's underbelly is not your bag, you'll still want this DVD just to watch Dustin Hoffman do a ten minute impression of Evans in a homemade short while the credits roll.
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on July 6, 2004
Hollywood is a place of fantasy, a composite of all our American dreams. Sure, I read Schulberg's, What Makes Sammy Run. That one covered the first golden age of American Film. The second golden age happened because a young Jewish businessman from New York ran into silent film legend Norma Shearer at a Beverley Hills hotel, and then was propelled into acting. He played the Spanish matador in The Sun Also Rises, a film based on Ernest Hemingway's book. This led to a minor film career that went poof in the fifties, so the young man bought rights to a few novels for peanuts: you know, The Godfather, Love Story, Marathon Man, and Serpico. The next thing he knew, he was running Paramount Pictures and dating every beautiful woman in California. He also discovered cocaine in the 80's and at the same time, a distant association with a murdered producer tarnished his image, so that he couldn't work in this town again. Then he got his job back and made more pictures. This all happened to Robert Evans. The 1994 documentary is really a home movie with Al Pacino and Jack Nicholson, ex-wife, Allie McGraw, and a supporting cast of thousands. I wonder what he's doing now?
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on January 3, 2004
The casual viewer of the life of Bob Evans, a man who spent most of his working life as a successful Paramount Pictures executive and creative producer would say that he was the kind of man who could accidentally fall into a cesspool and emerge with two fistfuls of cash.
That casual observer would be correct. Evans was born connected, good looking and charismatic. What the casual observer might not know, however, is that Evans is also visionary, intelligent, hard working and committed. His sharp dress and looks belie his New York City vulgar idiom, something that shaped his overall persona.
This beautifully realized memoir is a must- see for any Hollywood aficionado. Evans narrates it in a natural, unaffected way, one can imagine, the way he would tell you across an intimate dinner table, making you wince and chuckle along the way. His few miscalculations in life, notably marrying a working female actor (something we are warned not to do) and getting into the drug scene, albeit briefly, when it was in vogue and thus falling prey to the voracious media monster, can easily be forgiven. The man, after all, gave us much more than we could possibly have given back to him, many years of top-flight entertainment. We leave this Kid in his picture saluting him and wishing him well, especially those of us who are ebb-tide filmmakers some miles outside of the inner circle. He lived the life we could only have dreamed.
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on February 6, 2004
There was a time, still basking in the innocence of childhood, when I tended to see film stars as possessing a perfection that we mortals lacked. But that was also a time when we didn't know much about the stars other than what was on the screen. Movie fans had to rely on the puff pieces in Photoplay that had more in common with press agentry than journalism.

Now, in an age when celebrities are covered around the clock by a "news" media desperate to hang on to a dwindling audience, every rock is upturned and the snakes beneath them are crawling out, hissing uncontrollably as we watch in horror. When I think of Hollywood now, I remember the scene in "The Shining" when Jack Nicholson enters a bathroom to see a stunningly beautiful woman emerge from the tub. He embraces her only to be shocked that the woman is actually a withered old hag, and a dead one at that.

The movies are make-believe, but more and more it looks like the people who make them are make-believe, too. The starstruck audience has let withered old hags, dead in all but the literal sense, con us into believing they are great beauties. The biggest star and the devoted fan seem to be kindred spirits, both of them living vicariously through a carefully constructed image to give meaning to an otherwise empty life.

Robert Evans seems like a combination of both the star and the starstruck fan. Never a "star" in the traditional sense, Evans toiled behind-the-scenes, but like a ventriloquist who's jealous that the dummy gets all the laughs, he could never keep his permanently tanned mug out of the spotlight. On the surface, this fallen Hollywood kingpin's life looks like one to envy, but it's all so lacking substance that it might as well be the gateway to hell. Evans strikes me as the epitome of the man who had everything that money can buy, but desperately needed more to fill a void that only seemed to grow with success. I find his story, as told in this one-sided documentary, more depressing than entertaining, although I admit it's the latter, as well.

If everything you know about the period covered in this film comes from Evans, you'd wonder why the Hollywood sign hasn't been replaced with a statue in his image. Inexplicably chosen to head Paramount Pictures in the late Sixties, after bombing out as an actor in "The Sun Also Rises" and such drek as "The Fiend Who Walked the West," he takes credit for saving the studio with box-office hits like "Love Story" and "The Godfather." No doubt Evans played a role in the studio's resurgance, but he takes more credit than he seems to deserve, claiming he convinced Francis Ford Coppola to add "texture" to the gangster movie that Evans insists the director saw as little more than a shoot-em-up B movie. But if Coppola thought so little of "The Godfather" and its potential, why would he work so hard to cast Marlon Brando against Paramount's objections at a time when Brando's reputation as the world's greatest actor meant nothing next to the string of bombs he starred in throughout the Sixites?

For that matter, can Evans rightfully claim he "produced" any of the films made under his reign as Paramount's top gun? The producer's credit for "The Godfather" went to Al Ruddy, who accepted the Oscar when the film was named Best Picture. In his book, Evans claims Ruddy was merely "appointed," but it's hard to imagine a man of Evans's monumental ego not seizing credit especially if it rightfully belonged to him. As for the other hits that saved the magic mountain, "Rosemary's Baby" was produced by William Castle, "The Odd Couple" was produced by Howard Koch, "Love Story" was produced by Howard Minsky, and on and on and on with Evans never earning an on-screen credit for anything until "Chinatown."
But Evans wasn't content to be the head of a studio with the power to greenlight a project. He wanted to be a star! Hence his weird biography (in which every conversation sounds like it came from a 30's gangster movie) and this so-called documentary.

This "documentary," like the book it's based on, is fascinating for all the wrong reasons. It's meant to be some kind of tribute to Evans and his success, but it simply exposes him as the vainest of empty shells. The Kid stays in the picture all right, but only by vandalizing the true portrait with ego, half-truths, and lies.
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