The Last Tycoon (1976): Elia Kazan's swan song featuring a mesmerizing performance from Robert De Niro

A highly underrated masterwork of cinematic art

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

The Last Tycoon (1976), Poster, Directed by Elia Kazan, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, starring Robert De Niro
The Last Tycoon (1976) By Elia Kazan
Our Rating: 9.0
IMDb Ratings: 6.3
GenreDrama | Romance
CastRobert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum
Country: USA
Runtime: 123 min
Color: Black and White Color (Technicolor)

Summary: F.Scott Fitzgerald's novel is brought to life in this story of a movie producer slowly working himself to death.
The Last Tycoon is a 1976 drama film directed by legendary American filmmaker Elia Kazan. Kazan's swan song, The Last Tycoon is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's final, unfinished novel titled The Love of the Last Tycoon, which was compiled and published posthumously. The movie's screenplay, written by the Nobel Prize-winning English playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter, mostly remains true to the tone and mood of Fitzgerald's novel. The Last Tycoon is an important work of cinematic art that can be approached in several different ways depending purely on the viewer's taste and his/her level of understanding. Therefore, this critic feels it necessary to delineate a few ways in which the movie can be approached, especially for the benefit of the uninitiated viewer.

Robert De Niro as Monroe Stahr in The Last Tycoon, Directed by Elia Kazan
Robert De Niro as Monroe Stahr in The Last Tycoon
First, at its most basic level, The Last Tycoon is a film about films and people who make them: writers, directors, actors, producers and studio bosses, not in the increasing order of their creative importance but in the ascending order of their actual control on the filmmaking process as prevalent during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The second way to approach the film is to look upon it as a poignant tale of unrequited love. Third, it can be accessed as a film about the dramatic fall of a man from omnipotence to oblivion. Fourth, as a critique on the inflated human ego and the Lear-like grand operatic collapse it so often triggers.

Stunning beauty Ingrid Boulting stars as Kathleen Moore in The Last Tycoon, kisses Monroe Stahr (played by Robert De Niro), Directed by Elia Kazan
Ingrid Boulting as Kathleen Moore in The Last Tycoon
Fifth and the most complex way to analyze it would be as a surrealistic expression of an artist working at the height of his powers, desperate to make the most of the final few opportunities left with him.

The Last Tycoon revolves around a Hollywood movie producer, named Monroe Stahr, slowly working himself to death. Robert De Niro, in his rare low-key performance from the definitive '70s, is absolutely breathtaking to watch as Stahr—a role fashioned upon Irving Thalberg, the production chief at MGM during the late '20s and '30s.

Jack Nicholson stars as Brimmer in The Last Tycoon (with Robert De Niro's Monroe Stahr), Directed by Elia Kazan
Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro in The Last Tycoon
The movie features quite a few other memorable performances including cameos from Tony Curtis, Jeanne Moreau and Jack Nicholson. The scenes that he shares with Jack Nicholson—the only ones that the two legendary actors would ever share on the celluloid—are pure gold. A couple of scenes between De Niro and Curtis are also top draw.

De Niro also shares great chemistry with the two female leads who complement him really well. While Ingrid Boulting is delectable to watch in her enigmatic portrayal of Kathleen Moore, Theresa Russell creates a strong impact in the limited screen time she gets.

Jeanne Moreau plays an aging actress "Didi" in The Last Tycoon,  Directed by Elia Kazan
Jeanne Moreau gives a cameo in The Last Tycoon 
The Last Tycoon, as underrated as it is, deserves much more attention than what it has received over the last four decades. The movie succeeds in bringing to the fore the gloomy but realistic image of the Tinsel Town—considering it is invariably portrayed as some kind of a Shangri-La for the young and upcoming artists—that usually remains hidden behind its shimmering facade of glitz and glamour. The Last Tycoon reminds this critic of a brilliant Robert Altman film called The Player (1992), which too dares to showcase the dark side of Hollywood.

Ingrid Boulting and Robert De Niro share an intimate moment, lovemaking scene, Directed by Elia Kazan
A Still from Elia Kazan's The Last Tycoon
Overall, The Last Tycoon is a haunting tale of glamour, lust, despair, and solitude that proves to be a rewarding experience for the intelligent viewer. The Last Tycoon may lack the refinement of a work of commercial art but its unfinished crudeness definitely makes it more lifelike than the former. It's a movie that hasn't lost its relevance with time and perhaps that's what makes it a timeless gem. The restless viewers can afford to stay put, but those with patience must check it out, for they would be thoroughly rewarded.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!  

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