A novel I have never read is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon, made into a 1976 film by the remarkable if often dissatisfying Elia Kazan. My takeaway from the picture, scripted by Harold Pinter, is this: Robert De Niro plays a tycoon of the Hollywood film industry in all its absurdity. The tycoon himself, Monroe Stahr, is absurd: he is building a house on the beach when he already owns a perfectly fine—opulent—house in the suburbs. Moreover love is absurd, leaving Monroe a romantic failure with a woman called Kathleen Moore (Ingrid Boulting), who sleeps with the tycoon but is promised to another man. Foolishness abounds.
However, the dark mood in Tycoon is not justified by the incidents we see, and this makes the movie pretentious. Fitzgerald’s novel is unfinished; Pinter seems unable to make up for it. . . This is Theresa Russell‘s first film and it is good to see her. It is even better to see Kazan’s all-star cast (Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, et al.) In my view, though, Kazan’s last (which is what The Last Tycoon is) is not one of his best. Incidentally, the PG rating here is a joke; it should be R.