At 87, The Kid Still Pursues The Best
He’s still in the picture, perhaps not quite a kid anymore, as he’s turning 87 today. But legendary producer and one-time Paramount studio head Robert Evans, whose tenure there gave birth to some of the most beloved and impactful movies that emerged in the years between 1967 and 1974 (think The Odd Couple, Rosemary’s Baby, True Grit, The Godfather Parts I and II, Chinatown). Earlier this year, a stage adaptation of his 1994 warts-and-all autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture (which was transformed into a marvelous, Evans-narrated documentary movie in 2002) played at the Royal Court Theatre in London, with several actors, including Danny Huston, Christian Camargo and Heather Burns, playing Evans at various points in his life trajectory throughout the cinematically styled Simon McBurney/James Yeatman adaptation. While awaiting a possible future production to arrive stateside, one can explore other facets of the Evans legacy, which includes a short-lived acting career in a handful of films from the 1950s: Lydia Bailey, The Egyptian, Man of a Thousand Faces (presciently cast in that Lon Chaney biography as Hollywood producing icon Irving Thalberg), The Sun Also Rises, The Fiend Who Walked the West and the final title from that period in his life, the Manhattan career girl melodrama The Best of Everything (1959, directed by Jean Negulesco from the Rona Jaffe best-seller). His good looks and slick charm were a perfect fit for Dexter Key, the predatory seducer of naïve publishing house staffer April Morrison (Diane Baker); their casual liaison leads to a disastrous end when she becomes pregnant and he ’ll have none of it. In a grooming-for-stardom cast that includes Baker, Hope Lange and Suzy Parker as the working women who desire to stake their claim to meaningful romance as well as sturdy careers; Joan Crawford and Brian Aherne as older, worldly-wiser veterans maintaining an unsteady hold on their hard-earned turf; and Evans, Stephen Boyd and Louis Jourdan as the flawed males they encounter who muddy romantic comfort with their ingrained chauvinistic priorities. An attractively designed Cinemascope production built on provocative material with talented and appealing stars, The Best of Everything may have been Evans’ last stand as a committed actor but it presages the future convergence of quality content and production polish he would develop and nurture as a Hollywood kingpin a few years later. It’s one of dozens of Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray titles from Twentieth Century Fox at reduced prices through tomorrow only. At 50% off, pursuit of The Best of Everything is worth the investment for movie fans, just like the feisty Evans, to stay in the picture.