The Last Tycoon (1976)

PG | 123 mins | Drama | 1976

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writer:

Harold Pinter

Producer:

Sam Spiegel

Cinematographer:

Victor J. Kemper

Editor:

Richard Marks

Production Designer:

Gene Callahan

Production Company:

Academy Pictures A.G.
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HISTORY

Title cards for the film read: "F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon." Within the story, black-and-white sequences depict movies in production at the fictional studio. Actress Anjelica Huston's name was erroneously spelled "Angelica" in the onscreen credits. Seymour Cassel's surname was spelled "Cassell."
       The Last Tycoon is based on the unfinished, final novel about Hollywood life by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896--1940), who critic Charles Champlin described in the film's LAT review as "probably the most sensitive eyewitness the [film] industry ever had." As noted in a 13 Dec 1974 LAHExam article, Fitzgerald was writing the novel while he was under contract with M-G-M, and literary and film historians generally agree that the character, "Monroe Stahr," was patterned on M-G-M producer, Irving Thalberg (1899--1936). In the introduction to a 1993 reissue of the novel under Fitzgerald's original manuscript title, The Love of the Last Tycoon , Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli stated that the rivalry between Stahr and "Pat Brady" reflected the relationship between Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer.
       According to 21 Mar and 14 Nov 1976 NYT articles, Fitzgerald's unfinished work ended with the fight between Stahr and the character, "Brimmer." However, Fitzgerald left notes about his intended ending for the story, which were compiled after his death by his literary executor, Edmund Wilson, and published with his manuscript in 1941 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Fitzgerald had also discussed his plans with Hollywood columnist Sheila Graham, with whom he was romantically involved, and she relayed what she knew to Wilson and Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald's editor at Scribner's, in two letters, which were reprinted in the 14 Nov 1976 ... More Less

Title cards for the film read: "F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon." Within the story, black-and-white sequences depict movies in production at the fictional studio. Actress Anjelica Huston's name was erroneously spelled "Angelica" in the onscreen credits. Seymour Cassel's surname was spelled "Cassell."
       The Last Tycoon is based on the unfinished, final novel about Hollywood life by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896--1940), who critic Charles Champlin described in the film's LAT review as "probably the most sensitive eyewitness the [film] industry ever had." As noted in a 13 Dec 1974 LAHExam article, Fitzgerald was writing the novel while he was under contract with M-G-M, and literary and film historians generally agree that the character, "Monroe Stahr," was patterned on M-G-M producer, Irving Thalberg (1899--1936). In the introduction to a 1993 reissue of the novel under Fitzgerald's original manuscript title, The Love of the Last Tycoon , Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli stated that the rivalry between Stahr and "Pat Brady" reflected the relationship between Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer.
       According to 21 Mar and 14 Nov 1976 NYT articles, Fitzgerald's unfinished work ended with the fight between Stahr and the character, "Brimmer." However, Fitzgerald left notes about his intended ending for the story, which were compiled after his death by his literary executor, Edmund Wilson, and published with his manuscript in 1941 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Fitzgerald had also discussed his plans with Hollywood columnist Sheila Graham, with whom he was romantically involved, and she relayed what she knew to Wilson and Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald's editor at Scribner's, in two letters, which were reprinted in the 14 Nov 1976 issue of NYT . According to Graham and other notes used by Wilson, Fitzgerald planned for Stahr to hire gangsters to assassinate Pat Brady, then to regret his actions moments before dying in a plane crash. Graham wrote that the novel would end with Stahr's funeral at which "all the Hollywood hypocrites assembled in full force."
       A 1957 episode of the CBS network television series, Playhouse 90 , featured an adaptation of the work which starred Jack Palance as Stahr. Eventually, producer Sam Spiegel bought the film rights to the book and assigned Harold Pinter as screenwriter and Mike Nichols as director. However, according to a 21 Jan 1975 LAT article, Nichols dropped out due to scheduling conflicts with the film, The Fortune (1975, see entry) and was replaced by Elia Kazan.
       According to a 10 Nov 1976 LAT news item, Spiegel, Pinter and Kazan spent three years bringing the film to the screen, including two years working on the script. A 21 Jan 1975 LAT article stated that the project was offered to M-G-M and Columbia. As noted in a 16 Feb 1975 NYT article, Paramount had distributed a film based on another work by Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1974, see entry), which did not generate the box office success they had hoped, but made enough that the studio agreed to distribute The Last Tycoon .
       Although, according to a 14 Nov 1976 NYT article, some scenes in the film were lifted almost verbatim from Fitzgerald's book, Pinter and Kazan took several liberties with the story. In the book, much of the story is told by the character, "Cecilia Brady," years after the events, but in the film her role is downplayed and her character changed substantially. The book's opening sequence, in which Stahr is a passenger on an airplane, paralleled Fitzgerald's intended ending of that character's death on a plane and is dropped in the film, as is Stahr's funeral. Stahr remains alive at the film's conclusion.
       A 16 Feb 1975 NYT article stated that Kazan wanted Lee Strasberg for a key role, but he did not appear in the picture. Although opening credits introduce Theresa Russell and Ingrid Boulting, only Russell marked her film debut. Boulting, the daughter of British director John Boulting, had appeared in British and European feature films since 1966, but The Last Tycoon was her first American film. The Last Tycoon marked Kazan's final film as director.
       A 10 Nov 1976 Var news item reported that the film was initially rated R, but the decision was overturned during an appeal and changed to PG. In the 18 Nov 1976 LAT review, Champlin criticized the film as being an "unfine mismating of adapter, director and material." Other reviews, such as HR and Var were critical of the adaptation, although they praised the actors, especially De Niro's performance. The 17 Nov 1976 Var review disapproved of the script's "relentless focus" on Stahr and the 18 Nov 1976 HR review criticized the film for concentrating only on Fitzgerald's completed draft and ignoring his outline for the end of the story. The Last Tycoon was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.


The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and note were written by participant John Theofanis, a student at University of Texas at Austin, with Janet Staiger as academic advisor.
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
13 Dec 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 1976
p. 3.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
13 Dec 1974.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Jan 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
10 Nov 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Nov 1976
p. 1, 21.
New York Times
16 Feb 1975.
---
New York Times
16 Nov 1975.
---
New York Times
21 Mar 1976.
---
New York Times
14 Nov 1976
pp. 1, 15-16.
New York Times
18 Nov 1976.
---
Variety
10 Nov 1976.
---
Variety
17 Nov 1976
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Sam Spiegel - Elia Kazan film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam asst
Cam asst
Gaffer
Key grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Asst art dir
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set des
COSTUMES
Cost des by
Addl cost by
Women's ward
Men's ward
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Rerec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Title des
MAKEUP
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Scr supv
Transportation coord
Controller
Prod services by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald (New York, 1941).
SONGS
"My Silent Love," by Edward Heyman & Dana Suesse
"Out of Nowhere," by Edward Heyman & John Green
"Love Is Just Around the Corner," by Leo Robin & Lewis Gensler.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon
Release Date:
1976
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 17 November 1976
Los Angeles opening: 18 November 1976
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor, w b&w seq
Lenses/Prints
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision
Duration(in mins):
123
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24458
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the 1930s, Monroe Stahr is a young and powerful producer at a major Hollywood studio noted for his intuitive ability to make critically acclaimed and financially profitable films. Working long hours that compromise his health, Stahr is active in all facets of moviemaking. During the viewing of dailies, he provides specific and inspired orders for editing the footage. From a discreet distance, he oversees the production of a film, and watches an aging diva, Didi, undermine the authority of director, Red Ridingwood. Stahr mourns for his deceased wife, Minna Davis, a famous actress whose dressing room has been left as a memorial and is a highlight of the studio's public tours. One evening, Pat Brady, an older and more powerful producer, meets with Fleishacker, the studio's New York attorney. Coveting the recognition Stahr receives, Brady claims that he is the strong base on which Monroe Stahr rests. Brady's college-aged daughter, Cecilia, comes home for the summer and arrives at Brady's office shortly before an earthquake jolts the studio. Brady and Cecilia race to Stahr's office, where they find him knocked unconscious by fallen debris. After he awakens, Stahr organizes the studio workers to respond to the damage caused by the earthquake. Broken pipes have unleashed a flood and created a small river on the studio lot. As Stahr surveys the area, a piece from a film set, “a giant head of the goddess, Siva,“ floats into view. Clinging to its sides are two women who have taken refuge from the water. Entranced by the surreal sight, Stahr is particularly drawn to one of the women, an ethereal beauty who reminds him of Minna. During ... +


In the 1930s, Monroe Stahr is a young and powerful producer at a major Hollywood studio noted for his intuitive ability to make critically acclaimed and financially profitable films. Working long hours that compromise his health, Stahr is active in all facets of moviemaking. During the viewing of dailies, he provides specific and inspired orders for editing the footage. From a discreet distance, he oversees the production of a film, and watches an aging diva, Didi, undermine the authority of director, Red Ridingwood. Stahr mourns for his deceased wife, Minna Davis, a famous actress whose dressing room has been left as a memorial and is a highlight of the studio's public tours. One evening, Pat Brady, an older and more powerful producer, meets with Fleishacker, the studio's New York attorney. Coveting the recognition Stahr receives, Brady claims that he is the strong base on which Monroe Stahr rests. Brady's college-aged daughter, Cecilia, comes home for the summer and arrives at Brady's office shortly before an earthquake jolts the studio. Brady and Cecilia race to Stahr's office, where they find him knocked unconscious by fallen debris. After he awakens, Stahr organizes the studio workers to respond to the damage caused by the earthquake. Broken pipes have unleashed a flood and created a small river on the studio lot. As Stahr surveys the area, a piece from a film set, “a giant head of the goddess, Siva,“ floats into view. Clinging to its sides are two women who have taken refuge from the water. Entranced by the surreal sight, Stahr is particularly drawn to one of the women, an ethereal beauty who reminds him of Minna. During the night, Stahr dreams that Minna tells him she has come home. The next day, he initiates a search for the woman. Meanwhile, Cecilia, who is infatuated with Stahr, asks him to escort her to the Screenwriters' Ball. She talks about marriage, but he says he is too old and too tired to undertake such a thing. When Cecilia boldly challenges him, by saying, "Undertake me," Stahr resists, explaining that he does not think of her in a romantic way. He allows their conversation to be interrupted by the arrival of Rodriguez, a matinee idol who seeks a private conference. When Rodriquez confides that he is suffering from impotency, Stahr counsels him and the actor leaves with renewed confidence. Over an executive lunch, Brady and several studio trustees discuss the threat posed by Brimmer, the communist leader of the writers' union. When an aged executive expresses complete faith in Stahr's ability to solve all problems and calls him "our production genius," Brady defensively claims he was the first to refer to Stahr that way. When Stahr joins the group, he skillfully fields their questions about current and prospective projects, validating their trust in his abilities. When he receives a call reporting that the woman riding the Siva head has been located, he arranges to meet her that evening. After lunch, he fires Ridingwood, telling him he can neither handle Didi nor elicit her best performance. Later, when Brady calls to set up an urgent meeting for that evening, Stahr declines. That evening, Stahr is disappointed to discover that his appointment is with Edna, the other woman on the Siva head, but realizing his disappointment, she takes him to the apartment of Kathleen Moore, the woman he seeks. Although Kathleen seems pleased to meet him, she will only chat with him outside and will not invite him into her home. They part, expressing hope that they will meet again. The next day, Stahr mediates between Boxley, an English writer who thinks movies are beneath him, and his two colleagues. To inspire Boxley, Stahr tells an impromptu story, in which a woman enters a room and empties the contents of her purse on a table. His interest piqued, Boxley asks about an unresolved element in the story, a nickel spilled from the woman's purse. Stahr tells Boxley the nickel was for the movies, a reminder of the nickels upon which the industry is built. At the Screenwriters' Ball, Stahr unexpectedly encounters Kathleen and they dance as the Hollywood community looks on. Kathleen says she cannot date him, but when she leaves, he follows her. Stahr and Kathleen spend the next day at Stahr's uncompleted beach house and remain there until after dark and make love. Kathleen tells Stahr about her previous relationship with an important man who misused her and says another man rescued her. Stahr tells Kathleen that he does not want to lose her, but she answers that she wants a quiet life. Later, when he returns home alone, Stahr's butler hands him an envelope that fell out of his car. Inside, Stahr finds a note from Kathleen stating that she will be married soon and cannot see him again. At the studio, Stahr deals with a drunken Boxley and has him escorted off the lot. Despite Kathleen's note, she and Stahr return to the beach, where she confirms her plans to marry an engineer, who, she says, saved her life. Undeterred, Stahr later calls Kathleen and excitedly plans a weekend getaway. However, while viewing rushes in a projection room, he receives a telegram from Kathleen, reporting that she was married at noon. In the aftermath of Kathleen's rejection, Stahr attends an important meeting with Brimmer, the writers' union leader, at Brady's residence. The two men joust verbally as Stahr dismisses writers as gagmen with whom he will share money but never power. He drinks heavily at dinner and, seeing Brimmer and Cecilia flirt, proposes a game of ping-pong. The game gets hostile and the drunken Stahr declares his intention to beat up Brimmer. He throws a punch but Brimmer fends it off easily and knocks the producer to the ground with a single blow. During the night, Cecilia cares for the battered Stahr. When daylight arrives, Brady tells Stahr he has called an emergency meeting. When he arrives at the meeting with a bruised eye, Brady informs Stahr that the New York office has expressed dissatisfaction with his mishandling of the meeting with Brimmer and suggests he take a long vacation. Returning to his office a final time, Stahr wrestles with a flood of memories. He envisions Kathleen as the girl in the story he told Boxley, spilling a nickel from her purse. In his thoughts, Stahr pleads to Kathleen, saying, "I don't want to lose you." Outside, he walks past a row of sound stages and, thinking, "I don't want to lose you," he enters a cavernous sound stage and walks into darkness. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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