Just finished watching Warner Archive's remastered edition of Vincente Minelli's Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), a fine film based on a bestseller by Irwin Shaw. The melodrama is frank in its look behind the scenes of a troubled Hollywood production being shot in Rome. Kirk Douglas plays washed up actor Jack Andrus, lured out of an extended "drying out," at what used to be called a sanitarium, by director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson), who himself has seen better days. Kruger is shooting a film at Cinecittà starring young Davie Drew (George Hamilton), a volatile actor not unlike Andrus during his tumultuous youth. One thing leads to another, and Andrus must take over for an ailing Kruger, manage his mercurial star, and contend with a manipulative ex-lover (Cyd Charrise), all while gripping tenuously to his eroding sanity. The passion of Minelli's drama, its abrupt tonal shifts from comedy to drama, from romance to disillusionment, and its deep cynicism, all reflected in the director's knack for expressionistic use of color, stands in stark contrast to Sofia Coppola's recent Somewhere (2010).
Coppola's bland exploration of vacuous actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff) and his shallow lifestyle intersects with Two Weeks in Another Town, though, when Somewhere takes the actor to Italy for a publicity tour. It is during this extended sequence where the amiable Marco, who only speaks English, seems at his most lost and vulnerable, accepting an award on a bawdy variety show in which the players only speak Italian. As I mentioned in my review of Somewhere, this scene echoes Federico Fellini's creepy "Toby Dammit" segment of Histoires extraordinaires (Spirits of the Dead) (1968), an Edgar Allen Poe triptych.
Terence Stamp plays the eponymous Toby Dammit, a raging alcoholic actor broken by the knowledge that his life is as shallow as Andrus's in Two Weeks and Marco's in Somewhere. And when Dammit finally can't take it anymore, he takes suicidal flight:
Do you think that just as Coppola cribbed from the influential Italian director, Fellini may have watched Minelli's film? See for yourself in an old clip I found online (which by no means reflects the actual quality of the Warner Archive release):
Yes, as I'm starting to learn, all roads lead to "Toby Dammit."
Two Weeks in Another Town is now available from Warner Archive.