Copyright 1956 by Loew's Inc. A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer picture. New York opening at the Plaza: 17 September 1956. U.S. release: 21 September 1956. U.K. release: 25 August 1957. London opening at the Curzon. Australian release: 7 March 1957. 10,991 feet. 122 minutes.
NOTES: Young photographed the European locations, Harlan the Hollywood studio scenes.
Academy Award, Anthony Quinn, Best Supporting Actor, defeating Don Murray in "Bus Stop", Anthony Perkins in "Friendly Persuasion", Mickey Rooney in "The Bold and the Brave", Robert Stack in "Written on the Wind". Also nominated for Best Actor, Kirk Douglas, losing to Yul Brynner in "The King and I"; Norman Corwin for Best Adapted Screenplay, losing to "Around the World in 80 Days"; Color Art Direction, losing to "The King and I".
Negative cost: around $2.5 million. Initial domestic rentals gross: $1.6 million. Foreign rentals: around $1 million. Initial loss: around $1.2 million.
The final film to be photographed in Ansco Color, a process which M- G-M had actively helped to develop.
VIEWER'S GUIDE: Not suitable for children, but make them watch it anyway.
COMMENT: Based on Irving Stone's superficial and romanticized biographical novel of Vincent Van Gogh, "Lust for Life" was adapted for the screen by (of all people!) radio playwright, Norman Corwin. The result is the one-dimensional characterization and comic caricatures of "The Odyssey of Runyon Jones". A faulty script was then aggravated by handing it over to a sympathetic director — Vincente Minnelli, a specialist in caricature cameos. Minnelli has enjoyed himself hugely; we have his sarcastic observation of the roisterers at the fair, and to cap one of the film's more solemn and dramatic moments, the scatter-brained stupidity of the asylum doctor, hilariously portrayed by Lionel Jeffries.
Nonetheless, Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn handle the script better than could be expected, and as might be anticipated from the director of "The Bad and the Beautiful", Minnelli's treatment of the scenes of dementia are quite effective. Miklos Rozsa's evocative score is also to be commended, as is Dore Schary's enterprise in allowing the film to be produced at all — one of the reasons why he got the sack.
Visually the film contains some attractively composed French and Dutch exterior scenes and the reproduction of the paintings is often above average, although CinemaScope seems an inconvenient shape for the display of such canvasses (Frederick A. Young and Russell Harlan photographed).
For his brief role as Paul Gauguin, Anthony Quinn received the lion's share of the critical acclaim, as well as his second Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor. Kirk Douglas, however, won the New York Film Critics Award as Best Actor for his interpretation of Van Gogh.