The Kid Stays In The Picture

The Kid Stays In The Picture


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Robert Evans is the archetypal Hollywood stud muffin.

A good looking young man from New York is spotted poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel by Norma Shearer and invited to take the role of her late husband in a movie about Lon Chaney, with Jimmy Cagney. His next picture is The Sun Also Rises, much to Ernest Hemingway's disgust, playing the bullfighter. He gives up acting and becomes a producer. By the age of 34, he is running Paramount Studios. He makes a succession of hits, including Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown. He marries Ali MacGraw.

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Then comes the fall. MacGraw runs off with Steve McQueen. The Cotton Club is an expensive flop. He discovers cocaine and is implicated in a murder case. He sells his house and leaves town. It's over and yet it's not over. He obtains the rights for The Saint. Jack Nicholson helps him buy his house back. He's making movies again.

With a life as glamorous as this, how could two young documentary makers, Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein, fail? It is not their fault, as Evans, now in his seventies, decided at the last minute that he didn't want to be in the film. He narrates, but isn't seen, which means that visually it is a succession of still photos, film clips and graphics. Obviously, a decision was made not to use talking heads.

Evans comes across as an intellectual thug and an inelegant speaker. Since this is his story and he's telling it, you can't escape that voice, which is mucky, like a lubricated sewage pipe. He may be a charmer with the ladies and a seducer of talent, but you wouldn't guess it from listening to him; he has the vocabulary of a pulp fiction blurb writer.

Because the film is subjective, there is no place for other opinions. Why did MacGraw leave? What happened to their son? Why did he fire Coppola? Who were his other wives? Why did the marriages end in divorce? What of the parties with Beatty, Nicholson and Polanski? What of the affairs with Ava Gardner, Lana Turner and Raquel Welch?

There are so many gaps in this biodoc, you could walk right through it without learning anything about the man, except that he brought Paramount up from No 9 in the studio ratings to No 1; he was a crap actor; he liked big glasses; he persuaded Mia Farrow not to walk off the set of Rosemary's Baby half way through because Frank Sinatra told her to; he had a brother who designed slacks for women.

They talk of him as an icon now. He appears more like a movie star than a real person who took massive risks and fought the system to make magnificent films. The kid never left the picture, because outside of it, he was Robert Shapera, the son of a dentist. Hollywood creates dreams; it created Bob Evans.

Morgen and Burstein can't find him.

Reviewed on: 05 Feb 2003
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Biodoc on the life, loves, movies and excess of Bob Evans, film producer, ex-actor and stud muffin.
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Director: Brett Morgen, Nanette Burstein

Writer: Brett Morgen, based on the book by Robert Evans

Year: 2002

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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