ELEVEN YEARS AGO, in Callaway Went Thataway, a modest real-life cowboy who was being signed up for the silver screen protested that he knew nothing about acting. A Hollywood con-man at once urged him not to worry, and sagely pointed out that a hoss-opera hero can get along very nicely with “a total of two facial expressions—hat on, and hat off.”
There was, of course, a gleam of naked truth in that jocose observation. Callaway, one of the better specimens among Hollywood's occasional movies-about-the-movies, is still worth watching for on late-night TV. Significantly, however, this 1951 comedy aptly embodied two trends which seem to have become almost obligatory whenever the anxious, selfconscious motion picture industry decides to gaze into its own mirror for story material: ( 1 ) A main character was a “has-been,” a pathetic ex-star wallowing in alcohol and selfpity. (2) The film, although amusing enough and flecked with touches of literate satire, never quite fulfilled its early promise of really candid revelations.
Both these traditions are maintained in Two Weeks in Another Town, a new film made in
Italy hy Americans with an international cast. Based on a novel by Irwin Shaw, it focuses on Kirk Douglas as a faded but still ambitious Hollywood star and Edward G. Robinson as a formerly esteemed director whose career is also running downhill. No longer a slave of the bottle after several years in a Connecticut sanitarium, the shaky actor accepts an offer to go to Rome for what he hopes will be a comeback performance in a shoddy but potentially profitable opus his old boss is making in the Eternal City.
To his disgust, the aptor on arrival at Cinccitta learns that he won’t be working in front of the cameras at all but merely supervising the dubbing of the English dialogue. He nonetheless accepts the assignment. Soon he has found something akin to serenity with a sweet young Italian girl (Dahlia Lavi). But her heart belongs to an unkempt, rebellious beatnik (George Hamilton) who is one of the headliners in the film. Further anguish assails our hero because of the activities of two baleful females—Cyd Charisse as his own ex-wife, who torments him for the sheer pleasure of it, and Claire Trevor as the old director’s spouse, a hellcat whose self-hatred is her only emotion. The director, too, adds to the actor’s woes with a ruthless doublecross before the story reaches its ambiguous, vaguely hopeful conclusion.
Like so many of its predecessors, Two Weeks in Another Town purports to be giving the audience the Inside Lowdown on behindthe-scenes moviemaking and the private lives of the celebrities. Except for a few graphic glimpses of today's Roman pandemonium in the vogue established by La Dolce Vita, most of the happenings seem to have little or nothing to do with reality. Douglas and Robinson struggle doggedly to put some life into their painfully stereotyped roles.
With an almost masochistic irony, producer John Houseman and director Vincente Minnelli — and, presumably, scriptwriter Charles Schnee as well—have interrupted their 1962 movie about the movies by showing their characters in a screening room watching some scenes from an Oscar-winner they are supposed to have created when they were on top of the heap. The shots actually are from The Bad and the Beautiful ( 1953), a much better movie about the movies than Two Weeks in Another Town. It was made by Houseman, Minnelli and Schnee when they were doing better work than their contemporary output, and actor Douglas was among its panel of stars.
Also showing this fortnight:
F3F ADVENTURES OF A YOUNG MAN: The late Jerry Wald's final production is a dull and dis-
appointing attempt to package several of Ernest Hemingway’s more-or-Iess autobiographical yarns about a boy’s gradual advance toward maturity. There are a few virtuoso cameos, notably Paul Newman’s sketch of a punchdrunk fighter, but Richard Beymer is too pale and pretty to be convincing in the central role.
tWTUE BEST OF ENEMIES: Warfare on the Ethiopian desert in 1941 is handled for laughs in this slow, mildly diverting story about a British major (David Niven) and an Italian captain (Alberto Sordi) with a strong mutual preference for civilian life.
CST THE SKY ABOVE, THE MUD BELOW: An uncommonly interesting French-made documentary about a 1959 expedition into the timeless jungles of Dutch New Guinea, one of the last unexplored areas in the world.
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