The Last Tycoon, released in 1976, is one of the last vestiges of old Hollywood merging with new Hollywood. Adapted from the unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is an effective tribute to a time when the movie industry was in its infancy. Robert DeNiro stars as Monroe Stahr, a thinly veiled depiction of film pioneer Irving Thalberg, who is burdened by his overwhelming position as a studio production head, by the loss of his movie star wife, and by his weak heart. While DeNiro's portrayal is the centerpiece of the film, there are several other elements involved which lend an extra aura of prestige. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film is technically competent, but, as it is based on a work which its original author left incomplete, the ending is a bit forced and contrived. To lend additional sparkle, there are appearances by a multitude of stars such as Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Ray Milland, and Theresa Russell who vie for screen time on the periphery of the main plot line involving Stahr's encounter and subsequent infatuation with an extra, played by Ingrid Boulting, who is his dead wife's twin. Kazan captures the spirit of the time and place well, but the pacing is slow and sometimes confusing. While The Last Tycoon represents Elia Kazan's last directorial effort, it is also notable for featuring the only joint screen appearance to date of Robert DeNiro and Jack Nicholson.
by Dan Friedman review