David Merrick Movies
One of Broadway's legendary personalities, producer David Merrick
mounted more than 80 shows over the course of his long career. Not all of these shows were successes, but Merrick cemented his reputation as a one-of-a-kind showman by hyping his would-be flops with publicity stunts that often proved more memorable than the shows themselves.
Born in St. Louis, MO, on November 27, 1912, Merrick originally planned to have a career in law, but eventually was swayed from this vocation by his love of the theater. He produced his first play -- and, as it turned out, first flop -- in 1949. Five years later, he had his first big hit with the musical Fanny. The production opened to disastrous notices, but Merrick salvaged it with a series of publicity stunts, which included the erection of the show's belly dancer in Central Park.
Such gimmicks were to mark the rest of his career. Although he had a number of bona fide hits, his failures were spectacular and often accompanied by such stunts as the one he pulled for Subways Are Sleeping, for which he hired various men with the same names as critics who hated the production to provide glowing reviews. To increase publicity for Look Back in Anger, Merrick hired a woman to jump on stage and slap one of the actors.
Merrick had his heyday during the 1950s and 1960s, when he produced such hits as A Taste of Honey, Becket, Irma La Douce, Look Back in Anger, and Cactus Flower. Although many of his productions were eventually adapted for the screen, Merrick never really crossed over into film production, although he did act in such a capacity for a handful of films during the 1970s and early '80s. Instead, he preferred to concentrate his talents on Broadway and was in large part responsible for innovating the New York theater by importing such British productions as Peter Brook
's postmodern A Midsummer Night's Dream and Oliver!, and introducing American audiences to the likes of John Osborne
, Tom Stoppard
, and Shelagh Delaney
Armed with countless Tonys and even more cash, Merrick had his last great hit with 42nd Street. Based on a 1933 film, the musical ran for over a decade and was performed 3,486 times before it closed in 1989. Merrick continued to work almost until his death, and died on April 25, 2000. In a twist of irony, his death came just three days after that of producer Alexander Cohen, who had long been Merrick's arch-rival. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi
Notorious international jewel thief Jack Rhodes (Burt Reynolds) is out to steal $30 million in uncut diamonds in this visually opulent, uneven comedy. Chief Inspector Cyril Willis (David Niven) is Rhodes' nemesis. He wants to retire from Scotland Yard but would like to capture Rhodes as a final, dramatic cap to his career. In order to achieve his ambition, he sets up lissome Gillian Bromley (Lesley-Anne Down) as Rhodes' erstwhile partner in crime. The unpredictable happens when Rhodes and Bromley fall for each other, leaving the best-laid plans open to unexpected amendments. Three different directors had a hand in this film though their imprints are remarkably homogenous up to but not including the ending. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi
- Burt Reynolds, Lesley-Anne Down, (more)
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This third film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic 1925 novel was one of the most hyped movies of the summer of 1974. Robert Redford stars as self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby, who uses his vast (and implicitly ill-gotten) fortune to buy his way into Long Island society. Most of all, Gatsby wants to win back the love of socialite Daisy Buchanan (Mia Farrow), now married to "old money" Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern). Calmly observing the passing parade is Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston), Gatsby's best friend, who narrates the film. Francis Ford Coppola's screenplay is meticulously faithful to the original novel, but Theoni V. Aldredge's costume design and Nelson Riddle's nostalgic musical score won the film its only Oscars. The huge supporting cast includes Howard Da Silva, who played Wilson in the 1949 Great Gatsby, and a very young Patsy Kensit as Daisy's daughter. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, (more)
Leon Prochnik adapted the evocative Robert Moresco play Child's Play for the screen, with Sidney Lumet assuming directorial duties. Beau Bridges stars as a young teacher at an exclusive Catholic boy's boarding school named Paul Reis. An outbreak of violence and brutality among the students has Reis perplexed. He suspects that one of the older professors is responsible for inciting the mayhem. The two most likely suspects, played by James Mason and Robert Preston, are long-standing rivals who blame each other for the student turmoil. One of the old enemies goes so far as to discredit the other -- but his motives are at great odds with the religious doctrine taught within the school's walls. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- James Mason, Robert Preston, (more)