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VINE VOICEon August 20, 2002
Even though the reviews of this film were almost universally raves, I wouldn't have gone to see it. But a friend wanted to go, so I went along. And I'm truly glad I did. This is not like any documentary (particularly of a Hollywood notable) I've ever seen. For those of us who watch A & E Biography to glean tidbits of unknown information about "the famous," The Kid Stays in the Picture is a world apart, a completely refreshing take on biographical film-making.
What sets this film apart is its honesty. Evans's narration is self-deprecating, self-mocking, truthful and utterly unpretentious. The combination of TV and film clips, stills with subtle bits of animation (cigarette smoking rising from the surface of a photo) and the voiceover explanations of how some of Evans's films came to be is nothing less than compelling. It's also very, very funny. One notable description is of Frank Sinatra's ultimatum to Mia Farrow during the filming of the groundbreaking Rosemary's Baby. Either Mia finished the picture on day X or she could forget about coming home. How Evans schmoozed Mia into completing the picture is a great combination of smart hard-sell and appeal to the actress's ego. There are similar tales about how Coppola came to be the director of The Godfather.
Without copping any attitude, with painting any portion of his career in pastels, Evans comes across as a smart fellow with a great feeling for the books that make good movies. And the final scene, with Dustin Hoffman doing a long impersonation of Evans while the end credits run is absolutely hilarious.
If you have any interest in film-making, or want to know about a legendary Hollywood producer, or simply wish to see one swell documentary, see this movie. It's one of a kind.
Highly recommended.
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on December 20, 2004
Maybe the most engaging documentary ever made. Brilliant style is used in telling the story of one of the giants of the movie industry, producer Robert Evans. Giving magical illumination and motion to still pictures in a way that I could only describe as psychedelic.

Being a film fanatic for the last 43 years I was shocked and ashamed to find that I had not heard of Robert Evans. In all my reading of credits over the years I had somehow missed his name. I had remembered seeing William Castle's name at the beginning of Rosemary's Baby but not Evan's. Then, at finding out that he was the driving force behind Love Story, The Godfather, The Godfather Pt.2, Chinatown and one of my personal favorites The President's Analyst and that he was a big reason why those movies were so good, well I was just dumbfounded. And these are just a fraction of the films he's produced.

Of course he didn't start as a producer. He had been in women's apparel with his brother and accredited their endeavours as the reason why women wear pants today. While lounging around a pool one day he was discovered by Norma Shearer, lauching his career into show biz. It seems he knows everybody and I mean everybody.

After watchng this extraordinary film I called my father to ask him if he had ever heard of this astonishing personality. I queried, "Have you ever heard of Robert Evans?" anxiously awaiting a "No" so I could tell him all about this amazing show biz entity. He replied, "You mean Bob Evans." Yes indeed, it seems he knows EVERYBODY. My father had come across him in his days as a buyer for Macy's. I asked, "Do you know what he does now?" "He's some sort of movie director or something now, isn't he.", Dad answered. I bought him the audiobook.

Evans narrates both the documentary and the audiobook, both which are drawn from his autobiograghy by the same name. His voice is almost as amazing as his story and probably greatly enabled his prowess. He also lent his voice to the short-lived, hysterically irreverent cartoon series Kid Notorious that still airs on Comedy Central.

All in all, whether you know Evans or not this is a fascinating, beautifully made film about a producer whose achievements are (IMHO) greater than Thalberg's. The story of his life and loves is the stuff of legends and it goes on and on. This is a must see for anyone interested in Tinseltown. PS:I don't usually care for the added features but these are worthwhile and the credits to the main part of the documentary are alone worth the price of the disc. What a hoot and more proof that he knows everybody. Ask your dad. Who knows?
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on August 9, 2002
There's an apt little epigram that appears on screen as the movie opens. "There are three sides to every story," it says, "my side, your side and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each one differently." The speaker is Robert Evans, upon whose memoir, "The Kid Stays in the Picture", this rousing and raucous documentary is based. The epigram not only serves as a fancy little bit of wordplay to get the picture off on the right foot, but it also acts as the film's (and, more specifically, the subject's) credo.
Evans narrates the events of his life as they unfold on the screen. His gravelly voice is a soothing guide, but it is the content of what is said that is addictive. If this film had been made independently by directors Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen, without Evans' help, it would have been just another rise and fall and rise again Hollywood morality tale. But Evans' presence lends it something more. It gives the filmmakers, based solely on the forceful and gargantuan nature of his personality, license to tell this story only from Evans' myopic point of view. Usually documentarians have a responsibility towards objectivism. But with "The Kid Stays in the Picture", they're not really documenting Evans' life story, but his persona. Which makes for a much livelier tale.
So we get Evans' version of why Mia Farrow, after enduring much heat from her then husband Frank Sinatra to quit, decided to stay in "Rosemary's Baby": because Evans, the slick operator, fed her dreams of Oscars and glory; and because Mia, a flighty and whiny little girl, had an actress' ego that needed massaging. Is Mia given an opportunity to defend herself? No! Of course not! Does it matter? No! Of course not! Because Evans', and here is where the epigram comes in handy as an excuse, can tell a good story, especially when he comes out of it looking like a genius hero. If he is to be believed, than "Rosemary's Baby", "Love Story", "The Godfather", and "Chinatown" were all made by the singular vision of Robert Evans, and no one else (the only subject on which he is not completely egotistical is his acting; he rightfully acknowledges how lousy he was -- and offers video evidence to prove it! Another gutsy move). There's a lot of tall tales here, and a lot of toes stepped on. And if Evans were any less charming, the whole picture would crumble under the weight of his huge ego. But he is exceedingly charming, and it is on this charm that the picture coasts.
Farrow isn't the only one raked over the coals by Evans. If you're going to live in his circle, you better be as outrageous and thick-skinned as he is. There is much childish name-calling here: Roman Polanski is "The Little Pollack", Ali MacGraw is "Miss Snot Nose", and Francis Ford Coppolla is repeatedly called, always with a sneer of contempt, "The Prince". Evans refuses to pull his punches, to let anyone off easy, be they friend or foe. He can do this because he takes none of it seriously. As he says about Coppolla, in a contemporary interview clip from "The Cotton Club" days, "We've fought many times before." Implying that despite their differences, he and Coppolla will eventually allow this melee to pass too. Evans is a man who lives for the battle, especially when it's a battle fought for the sake of movies.
Besides the Tasmanian Devil-persona of its subject, "The Kid Stays in the Picture" has a lot of stylistic things going for it. The look of the film is mostly achieved through Evans' personal photo collection, each picture manipulated so that the people in the foreground appear to float over the background. It makes what could have been a very static collage come alive with action and movement. This is most effectively used in the way the film portrays Charlie Bludhorn, the owner of Paramount Pictures who gave Evans his own studio to run. Bludhorn's bald, bespectacled, toothy visage (along with Evans broad impression of his speaking voice) floats throughout the film; but we never see video of the man. Doesn't matter, for his gruff, straightforward character shines through. Old interviews and film clips from some of Evans' more famous movies are also thrown into the mix, giving the film a vibrant and manic feeling.
Except, that is, when the subject of Woodland comes up. Woodland has been Evans' home for the past thirty years. He lost it during his mid-1980s troubles, only to regain it thanks to Jack Nicholson. It is his refuge away from the Hollywood hustle and bustle, and whenever he speaks of it, Evans gets a nostalgic and romantic lilt to his voice. Burstein and Morgen allow their camera to float around Woodland, from its lush and colourful backyard, to its deep blue pool, to its comfortable corridors, making it a silent co-conspirator in Evans' story. When he's riding high, Woodland seems like an oasis, a Xanadu, a utopia. But when Evans is going through a rough spell, Woodland offers a sad reminder of his past glory, of what he has lost. When he returns in triumph, Woodland is there waiting for him, arms open. At times it felt like the house was a major character in the film, and I suspect that's not too far from Evans' own truth.
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" is rousing fun, regardless of its veracity. Evans is a no-holds barred narrator, giving equal measure to his glorious highs and his agonizing lows. You may find the man too slimy to ever want to meet in real life, but the 91 minutes you spend with his voice and his life story will be an hour and half worth giving up.
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on April 4, 2005
I had no idea what to expect before watching, but I was really happy I made time for this one. It's a doc / experimental piece unlike anything I've seen. Of course I've known about and appreciated the many films he's been involved in, but never of the man himself. I love the visual cut-motion style and a superb, evocative mix including music of the times then. Of course, how could anyone not be hypnotized by his speaking voice, which oozes that knowing which comes from having lived the life. While I'm happy for any guy who lands his dream girl, the footage of him in the supplements with his latest made me wince. It definitely should have been made into a difficult-to-find easter egg. The film itself is one of those that once you start, you are compelled to see to the end. Loved it.
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VINE VOICEon February 6, 2004
There was a time, still basking in the innocence of childhood, when I tended to see film stars as possessing a perfection that we mortals lacked. But that was also a time when we didn't know much about the stars other than what was on the screen. Movie fans had to rely on the puff pieces in Photoplay that had more in common with press agentry than journalism.

Now, in an age when celebrities are covered around the clock by a "news" media desperate to hang on to a dwindling audience, every rock is upturned and the snakes beneath them are crawling out, hissing uncontrollably as we watch in horror. When I think of Hollywood now, I remember the scene in "The Shining" when Jack Nicholson enters a bathroom to see a stunningly beautiful woman emerge from the tub. He embraces her only to be shocked that the woman is actually a withered old hag, and a dead one at that.

The movies are make-believe, but more and more it looks like the people who make them are make-believe, too. The starstruck audience has let withered old hags, dead in all but the literal sense, con us into believing they are great beauties. The biggest star and the devoted fan seem to be kindred spirits, both of them living vicariously through a carefully constructed image to give meaning to an otherwise empty life.

Robert Evans seems like a combination of both the star and the starstruck fan. Never a "star" in the traditional sense, Evans toiled behind-the-scenes, but like a ventriloquist who's jealous that the dummy gets all the laughs, he could never keep his permanently tanned mug out of the spotlight. On the surface, this fallen Hollywood kingpin's life looks like one to envy, but it's all so lacking substance that it might as well be the gateway to hell. Evans strikes me as the epitome of the man who had everything that money can buy, but desperately needed more to fill a void that only seemed to grow with success. I find his story, as told in this one-sided documentary, more depressing than entertaining, although I admit it's the latter, as well.

If everything you know about the period covered in this film comes from Evans, you'd wonder why the Hollywood sign hasn't been replaced with a statue in his image. Inexplicably chosen to head Paramount Pictures in the late Sixties, after bombing out as an actor in "The Sun Also Rises" and such drek as "The Fiend Who Walked the West," he takes credit for saving the studio with box-office hits like "Love Story" and "The Godfather." No doubt Evans played a role in the studio's resurgance, but he takes more credit than he seems to deserve, claiming he convinced Francis Ford Coppola to add "texture" to the gangster movie that Evans insists the director saw as little more than a shoot-em-up B movie. But if Coppola thought so little of "The Godfather" and its potential, why would he work so hard to cast Marlon Brando against Paramount's objections at a time when Brando's reputation as the world's greatest actor meant nothing next to the string of bombs he starred in throughout the Sixites?

For that matter, can Evans rightfully claim he "produced" any of the films made under his reign as Paramount's top gun? The producer's credit for "The Godfather" went to Al Ruddy, who accepted the Oscar when the film was named Best Picture. In his book, Evans claims Ruddy was merely "appointed," but it's hard to imagine a man of Evans's monumental ego not seizing credit especially if it rightfully belonged to him. As for the other hits that saved the magic mountain, "Rosemary's Baby" was produced by William Castle, "The Odd Couple" was produced by Howard Koch, "Love Story" was produced by Howard Minsky, and on and on and on with Evans never earning an on-screen credit for anything until "Chinatown."
But Evans wasn't content to be the head of a studio with the power to greenlight a project. He wanted to be a star! Hence his weird biography (in which every conversation sounds like it came from a 30's gangster movie) and this so-called documentary.

This "documentary," like the book it's based on, is fascinating for all the wrong reasons. It's meant to be some kind of tribute to Evans and his success, but it simply exposes him as the vainest of empty shells. The Kid stays in the picture all right, but only by vandalizing the true portrait with ego, half-truths, and lies.
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on September 4, 2002
Forget "The Player". "The Kid Stays In The Picture" is the most audacious, unapologetic and revealing look at Hollywood ever put on film. Legendary producer Robert Evans ("The Godfather", "Chinatown") provides the voiceover for this overview of his career with a bemused, world-weary delivery recalling William Holden in "Sunset Boulevard" (this guy's life story could easily eat up an entire season of the E! network's "True Story" episodes). Evans has a knack for recounting immensely compelling, almost mythic backstage tales that manage to be hilarious and harrowing all at once. His candor and self-deprecating charm is so disarming that you'll find yourself leaning into the screen at times as if you were sitting in a quiet bar catching up with an old friend (the man is definitely a "closer"). Directors Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein do a masterful job blending film clips, stills and subtly moody shots of Evans' gothic Hollywood mansion. Anyone who claims to be a "film buff" would be doing themselves a disservice if they miss this one. Be sure to watch the credits for a funny and priceless "home movie" clip featuring Dustin Hoffman doing an uncanny, riotously profane Evans impression (Hoffman supposedly based his character in "Wag The Dog" on long-time pal Evans).
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on May 22, 2003
"The Kid Stays in the Picture" is the best biographical documentary I have ever seen. Robert Evans narrates his experiences in the film industry with humor and humility. His story is illustrated using still pictures which are brought to life in a thrilling fashion. Please treat yourself to this DVD. You'll want to experience this magical documentary over and over again.
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on January 3, 2004
The casual viewer of the life of Bob Evans, a man who spent most of his working life as a successful Paramount Pictures executive and creative producer would say that he was the kind of man who could accidentally fall into a cesspool and emerge with two fistfuls of cash.
That casual observer would be correct. Evans was born connected, good looking and charismatic. What the casual observer might not know, however, is that Evans is also visionary, intelligent, hard working and committed. His sharp dress and looks belie his New York City vulgar idiom, something that shaped his overall persona.
This beautifully realized memoir is a must- see for any Hollywood aficionado. Evans narrates it in a natural, unaffected way, one can imagine, the way he would tell you across an intimate dinner table, making you wince and chuckle along the way. His few miscalculations in life, notably marrying a working female actor (something we are warned not to do) and getting into the drug scene, albeit briefly, when it was in vogue and thus falling prey to the voracious media monster, can easily be forgiven. The man, after all, gave us much more than we could possibly have given back to him, many years of top-flight entertainment. We leave this Kid in his picture saluting him and wishing him well, especially those of us who are ebb-tide filmmakers some miles outside of the inner circle. He lived the life we could only have dreamed.
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on February 18, 2004
Robert Evans, if nothing else besides his impressive list of film credits, deserves recognition for being a survivor. His narration of The Kid Stays In The Picture, based on his own autobiography, is a very well-constructed piece of first-person history.
Although the book is substantially better simply because it contains more in the way of details and gossip, the film makes great use of Evans's personal effects and archives to create a seamless timeline of his rise, fall, and subsequent rebirth. The man has to be admired for the sheer drive and force of his personality that he was able to sustain even though he himself admits that in many instances he has acted very stupidly.
The best parts, of course, center around his ascension to the top of the Paramount food chain at a time when everyone thought it was suicide for the company to put him at its head. His descriptions of what was going through his mind at that point of time is illuminating. He is also just old enough to have touched both the "golden age" of Hollywood and the modern era, which makes him somewhat unique.
I would highly recommend seeking out the book if you enjoy this film as it will only serve to supplement the juicy details here. With the release of the film, Evans has gone back and added a postscript that is both poignant and inspiring, if that word can be used for such an individual.
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on December 11, 2002
This is quite possibly the best documentary that I've ever seen. From his beginnings of being "discovered" at a Beverly Hills Hotel swimming pool to his marriage to Ali McGraw to his stint as the head of Paramount Pictures, all of his stories were great. Robert Evans shoots from the hip, tells it like it is (or was) and pulls no punches. The producers of the film did a wonderful job in casting Mr. Evans as the narrator for his own life story. His insight was told in a way that only the person that lived this life could have told it.
If you like movies and what takes place behind the camera then this movie is a must see. Better than any E! True Hollywood Story that you've ever seen.
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