n a weekday .\'ovember evening. a gravel-voiced
seventysomething American is regaling a packed
audience at London’s National l5ilm 'l'heatre with stories of his trips to Britain and his lil‘e-long admiration l'or British creative talent. lle recalls. for example. how he once llew to London to persttade members ol’ the House ol l.ords to get Lloyds to insure a cancer-ridden Laurence Olivier tor the ﬁlm Murat/mu Man and how. miraculously. alter the shoot. ()livier went into remission and lived l’or 13 more years. The onstage interviewer struggles to get a qttestion in cdgeway's atnong the richly-detailed anecdotes and reminiscences. But no one minds because they‘re in the presence ol a Hollywood legend. Producer Robert livans makes his exit to a standing ovation. exhorting its all to 'stay in the picture’. becattse ‘il' I can. then you can'.
livans is in town to promote a doctnnentary about him by American lilmmakers Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen. based on the producer‘s own best-selling memoir. The Kid Stays in the Picture. livans himsell' is the narrator of this entertaining yet sell-aggrandising accottnt ol his own L‘Oltﬂlt'ltll lil‘e. It's a me that lits. perhaps too neatly. into a dramatically satisl’ying three-act structure the rise. the tall and the comeback. There are no dissenting voices to challenge or to question livans’ version of the past. To paraphrase .lolm Ford's The Man who S/tul liberty lit/tune. this is very much ahout printing the legend.
The Kid Stays in the I’I'eltu‘e skips through livans' childhood in New York ('ity. where his dentist lather changed the Jewish family name li‘om Shapera to livans. Robert and his older brother (‘harles launched a highly prolitable women‘s clothing line. which tnade them millionaires. Robert. however. was destined to he discovered by the actress Norma Shearer in the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel. She picked this complete unknown to play her movie mogul husband lrving 'l'halherg opposite James Cagney in 'l'lie .llun u/u 'I‘/mu.vum/ I'm-ev.
Later. the head of 20m (‘entury l‘ox. l)aryl /.anuck. arrived on the set ol'771eSth/sv Rises. and insisted that livans he kept in the lead role of the Spanish matador. despite the misgivings ol' the director. the screenwriter and the rest ol' the cast.
Zztttttck's verdict‘.’ “The kid stay s in the picture.‘
livans knew he was a ‘halli—assed actor” and turned his energies towards becoming a producer. By wot» he was made head ol' production at Paramount studios by the chairman Charlie Bltthdorn. The choice ol' the inexperienced livans may have shocked the Hollywood establishment. hut Bluhdorn was swayed by a feature in the New York 'Ii'ntes about lavans’ ambitiousness. In his book about 7()s Hollywood. l-juvv lv’it/ers. Raging Bit/ls. Peter Biskind sttggests that Bluhdorn's l-‘rench wile was smitten by livans‘ looks. telling her husband; ‘\\'e've got to get a good-looking gtty. real sexy. to run the company.‘
Iivans proceeded to transl'orm Paramount‘s l‘ortunes. insisting that ‘the property is the star' and producing such critical and commercial successes as '/'/ie ()(lt/ ('unp/e. Rosemary 's' Baby. Love Story. Hum/(l um/ .lIum/e and
(new, . .,
Sew/m. On what is arguably his biggest hit. The (ind/Mlle): livans vehemently objected to the casting ol‘ Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. and he clashed repeatedly during the shoot with director l‘rancis l‘ord (‘oppola
Alter the lirst private screening he said to the director: "l‘he picture stinks. You shot a great lilm. where the luck is it. in the kitchen with the spaghetti.” liv‘ans' insistence that the liltn be recut into a longer. three-hour version won the day. And as head ol‘ his own production company at Paramount. he ignored the misgivings ol colleagues and convinced Roman Polanski to direct the labyrinthine ('ltt'numvrn which. despite its troubled production. was to becotne one of the tnost acclaimed lilms ol. the 7()s.
Yet liv'ans is remembered not just for his achievements as a producer. Stt'ilsingly good-looking. he liked. in Biskittdis words. ‘the company ol‘ women. especially models. actresses and hookers'. Atnong his amorous conquests were Ava (iardner. l.ana Turner and Margaux llemmingway. and he married Ali .\lac(iraw in ION). only l’or the marriage to collapse alter less than three years when she lel‘t him for Steve McQueen. And livans loved to entertain his shovvbusiness lt'ic‘tttls at his Beverly Hills mansion. \\'oodland. where at one of his tennis parties you might run into .lack Nicholson. l)ustin llol'l'man or Warren Beatty.
Bttt livans' reliance on cocaine. the drttg ol‘choice in 7()s llolly wood. was to prove costly. (‘tttlgltl up in WSU in a drugs deal involving his brother. he was indicted l'or possession and served a probationary sentence. A l‘ew years later. around the time of the making of T/lt' ('nI/un (Yul). he lottnd himsell' tangentially connected to the drug—related murder ol~ a New York promoter Roy Radin. livans was released uncharged. although that didn't stop the press describing it as ‘the ('ultnn (711/) tnurderf
A spent l‘orce in the industry he once dominated — his el'l'orts to both produce and star in the (Vii/tulmru sequel The live ./(I/\('.\ were disastrous livans descended deeper into depression and substance misuse. at his lowest point committing himsell to a psychiatric institution.
He has not given up on the business attd is still hoping to produce a l'eature on tnoh lawyer and blend Sidney Korshak. \Ve’re unlikely. though. to see too many luture Robert livans lilms. "l‘he studios are now run by conglomerates and corporations] says Burstein. ‘In the past. livans cottld greenlight whatever he wanted. he only had to answer to (‘harlie Bluhdorn. who wasn't a movie guy |hc was an oil harronl. There wasn't a comtnittee to answer to like there is today.’
The l\'/'(/ vas in the I’ie/m‘e skill‘ully l‘eeds our nostalgia l‘or l‘)7(ls American cinema. where creative risk—taking and hedonistic abandon appeared inseparable: this is how we want our movies to have been tnade. .\'ot by squares in suits.
The Kid Stays in the Picture is on selected release from Fri 7 Feb. See review, page 28.
Evans lived the life of movie star glamour and seductiveness while getting behind the era’s biggest films
HE LIKED THE COMPANY OF WOMEN, ESPECIALLY MODELS,
ACT RESSES AND HOOKERS
.’.‘.?.8 THE LIST 13