A behind-the-scenes look at the fateful \"fun\" excursion aboard William Randolph Hearst\'s private yacht in November of 1924, that brought together high profile personalities and resulted in a still-unsolved, hushed-up killing. British novelist Elinor Glyn relates this lurid Hollywood tale: Hearst and his lover actress Marion Davies set sail from San Pedro Harbor, hosting a small group that includes the brilliant but self-absorbed Charlie Chaplin, film pioneer Thomas Ince, preoccupied with his financial setbacks, ambitious gossip columnist Louella Parsons and the eccentric British Victorian novelist Elinor Glyn. Amidst the witty repartee and double entendre, deceit and deception are also on the menu. Everyone, it seems, has a secret agenda. One conspires to engineer a partnership with Hearst\'s Cosmopolitan Pictures, one plots to wheedle a career promotion, and one schemes to steal away Ms. Davies from the world\'s richest man. All aboard will learn the painfully high price of precarious success.
Peter Bogdanovich exhumes a half-forgotten tidbit of Hollywood scandal — involving a death on board a yacht belonging to William Randolph Hearst — and fashions it into a spry, touching entertainment. Hearst (Edward Herrmann) is the apex of a romantic triangle that includes his mistress, Marion Davies (Kirsten Dunst), and Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard). The direction is sometimes plodding: the madcap decadence of Jazz Age Hollywood never really comes alive, But the acting is first rate, and the picture shows an appealing sympathy for its vain, self-absorbed characters, no matter how monstrously or ridiculously they behave. — A. O. Scott
2002-04-12 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of The Cat's Meow