Last Tycoon [1976]

Very little of the energy and intensity of Elia Kazan's great early work remains in his last movie, a flat adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel about a Hollywood movie mogul of the 1930s. The story still feels like a half-written first draft, a grab bag of roughed-out scenes, even though Harold Pinter supposedly polished up the screenplay. Robert De Niro manages a silky, nuanced performance as the mogul, Monroe Stahr (modeled upon MGM's Irving Thalberg, the suave vulgarian who eviscerated Eric Von Stroheim's Greed), and works hard to transform this essayistic conceit of a character, a sexually repressed guru of mass audience manipulation, into a plausible wounded human being. The movie gets a welcome jolt of energy whenever vivid supporting players like Jack Nicholson, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, or Theresa Russell turn up. --David Chute

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