2 Years in Another Town hit the big screen in 1962, ten years after most of the same major players mad The Bad and the Beautiful such a success. Both have Kirk Douglas in a starring role, Vincente Minnelli directing, John Houseman producing, and Charles Schnee writing the screenplay. And unfortunately most deride this second expose into the inner workings of the Hollywood machine. Unfairly so, in my mind.
Granted, this isn’t on par with its predecessor, but that does not in itself make it a bad film. Actually it is much better than most would let on. Kirk Douglas is a down and out actor (Jack Andrus), facing perhaps the downside of his career after a stay in a mental institution. It is a bit unclear, to me anyway, whether the summons from his long-time director Kreuger (Edward G. Robinson) is the impetus behind his release or merely the first job opportunity coinciding with his release, but perhaps that really does not matter all too much in the larger scope of things.
Andrus heads to Rome (Italy, not Georgia) on the command of his erstwhile director Kreuger, presumably to take on a starring role in the picture- or at least a smaller supporting on-camera role. However, on his arrival in Rome he finds Kreuger’s feature film on the brink of disaster, which in this case is either falling behind schedule or running over budget, either of which is against the mindset and explicit orders of the Italian producer.
Shortly after his arrival on the set in Italy, Andrus learns that his role is not to be on screen, but rather his role as offered by Krueger is that of dubbing the dialogue as needed for the film. Ultimately Andrus accepts this rather onerous duty (at least in relation to his previous Academy Award studded career), realizing that this is his only opportunity to return to show business in any fashion.
As the pressure mounts, poor Krueger has a heart attack and in a show of compassion Andrus finishes the film as director. Along the way we encounter Andrus’ ex-wife (played by Cyd Charisse), and Krueger’s wife (played by Claire Trevor). Both do an exceptional job in perhaps throwaway roles.
If you cruise IMDB.com you’ll find narry a good review, but I must disagree with them. This isn’t a classic film or a great one, but by no means is it an awful film either. Douglas gives a strong if strangely lackluster performance and Robinson and Trevor steal the show. For that matter the dynamic between the two Kreugers almost demands its own film, it is so pervasively powerful.
This too isn’t Minnelli’s best work, but far from his worst. It was, at the time of its release, rated as one of the best pictures of 1962. And for those of you who’ve forgotten, that’s the year right after 1961! The only true weakness, outside a rather pedestrian plot, is the horrific portrayal of method actor Davie Drew by George Hamilton.
Hamilton, who perhaps unbeknown to us today who are more used to his spray on tans and devilishly saccharine charms, was at one point considered a serious actor. However here he truly is the weak link, and a very weak one at that. In a sea of strong and stellar performances Hamilton is adrift in a wave of indifference which seriously weakens the overal impact of the picture.
That weakness aside, it is a good picture worth your while should you be able to see it. It almost never hits TCM and isn’t available on VHS or DVD……….until now. Warner Archive will be releasing a newly remastered edition as part of it’s standard catalog. I have to say I didn’t see much that would speak much to remastering, but the film is presented very well without undue scratches and other blemishes. Given then nature of the niche format it is extremely well presented by the folks at ye old Warner Archive.
So not perhaps not a must have, but as most of the Warner Archive releases it is well worth the time and money if you’re familiar with it or are already a fan of either Kirk Douglas or Edward G. Robinson. Otherwise I would suggest you watch it first, should you be able to find it.
By no means a bad film, but I realize that times are tough and every dollar spent needs to be justified. Watch it first before you buy it. And, to be honest, I think you’ll still buy it. I would.
Get it at The WB Shop.
Review copy provided by Warner Brothers. Thanks!