Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gratuitous Brunette: Warren Beatty

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Having made his film debut opposite Natalie Wood in Elia Kazan's 1961 celluloid version of Splendor in the Grass - William Inge's paean to sexual repression, which he adapted from his own novel and in which he briefly appears - ought to have set Warren Beatty's career up nicely; instead, he spent the next six years drifting in and out of Hollywood's boudoirs, waiting for a second chance at a big break.

That opportunity came in 1967, when he played legendary bank robber Clyde Barrow opposite Faye Dunaway in Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde. Beatty's contributions to the film weren't merely confined to those on the screen; not only did he assist David Newman and Robert Benton on the screenplay (as did Robert Towne) Hollywood lore has it that this was the film that gave Beatty the producing bug.

Having been raised by teachers (alongside his sister, the incomparable Shirley MacLaine) ensured that Beatty was more than a pretty face, no matter how pretty that face was; he seems to have realized early in his career that the movie business really only benefits producers, and thereafter conducted himself accordingly. A string of hits - including McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), The Parallax View (1974), Shampoo (1975), and Heaven Can Wait (1978) - gave him significant box-office clout, which he used to produce his magnum opus, Reds (1981). That he followed his greatest work with one of the greatest bombs in Hollywood history (1986's Ishtar, with Dustin Hoffman) was readily redeemed by 1990's colourful, campy Dick Tracy.

It was Warren Beatty's role as a Hollywood lothario, though, that always threatened to overshadow his reputation as an actor and director - especially since most of his relationships were with his leading ladies; it took one of such leading lady - Annette Bening, his costar in Bugsy - to make an honest man of him with their March 1992 marriage and the subsequent birth of their four children.
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