The Oscar, 1966

Stephen Boyd’s  Frankie Fane in the 1966 movie ‘The Oscar’ is one of the most renowned (or infamous) performances of his movie career. ‘The Oscar’ is generally considered a camp classic by 60’s movie fans. It is truly a gem of over-the-top movie making and acting. The energy in this movie starts off at a revved up speed and never lets up. The dialogue in the film veers from eccentric to hysterical. You cannot forget some of the lines in this movie, and the more you watch it, the more you love it. The movie is based on the Richard Sale novel of the same name. The novel has a completely different plot, but the feel of the characters is exactly the same. In the novel, the story begins with Frankie Fane hearing about his Oscar nomination. It involves all the other actors as well who are nominated, and it follows Frankie’s schemes and plots to ruin them all. His ‘skeleton in the closet’ is that he posed nude for male magazines at the beginning  of his career. The novel ends the same way as the movie- with Frankie shocked and stunned at losing the Oscar. I am sure that Stephen read the novel (as he was in the habit of doing for most of his films if a novel existed). When you read the book, you can’t help but see Boyd’s Fane before your eyes.  Frankie Fane is truly despicable, rude, caustic, amoral- but one of the funnest anti-hero’s to ever grace the pages of a book – or the screen, for that matter. As one of the character’s in the novel describes Frank Fane’s effect -” It is animal magnetism… a sex drive that comes off you like hot steam. It is like a wild creature looking for ‘rapine.”   For my money, Stephen Boyd is the perfect Frankie Fane.  Even though this movie is over-the-top, it is unfortunate that Boyd’s performance as Fane was overlooked by many as ‘camp’. It honestly is one of his best performances on screen in my opinion. He is mesmerizing. When he isn’t on screen (he dominates 95% of the film reel here), you feel like the air has gone out of the room.  You can’t get enough of Frankie Fane! Obviously the screen play does not follow the novel’s plot exactly, but it takes many of the same highlights and twists them into the 2-hour fun fest that is ‘The Oscar’  Originally the movie was set to star Steve McQueen and Peter Falk. Obviously that didn’t pan out.  The screen writing credits (or discredit!) goes to author Harlan Ellison. This was his first and last Hollywood adapted screen play. Besides Stephen being entertaining as the taut, snarly Fane, the rest of the cast is wonderful to watch as well. Jill St.John shrieks and wiggles; Milton Berle (of all people!) plays the constantly abused agent with true pathos; Eleanor Parker is haughty and raving; Ernest Borgnine is his usual, sleazy self; Edie Adams is ravishingly kooky; Joseph Cotten is classic as the world-weary movie executive; Elke Sommer is perfectly aloof and love-struck as Fane’s amour; and new-to-the-silver-screen Tony Bennett is surprisingly sympathetic as Fane’s long-suffering flunky.

 

 

 

 

 

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