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Review: Fame cuts both ways in 'The Big Knife'

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 17, 2013 at 10:11 am •  Published: April 17, 2013

The excellent supporting cast includes Brenda Wehle, a malevolent delight as scandal-sniffing gossip columnist Patty Benedict. Joey Slotnick brings underlying despair to the role of Buddy Bliss, Charlie's nervous but loyal publicity manager. Chip Zien warmly enacts Nat Danziger, a sincere, longtime father figure to Charlie and Marion, while Reg Rogers wears a smarmy air as ironically-named Smiley Coy, who executes Hoff's every controlling whim.

The dark secret hidden by Charlie and his various handlers dominates the final, melodramatic scenes, when Charlie ruminates bleakly, "This whole movie thing is a murder of the people."

Adding to the general air of decadence are Ana Reeder, exuding heat as Buddy's voluptuous, immoral wife, and Rachel Brosnahan as a naively impudent, blackmailing starlet. C.J. Wilson makes a brief but notable appearance as Marion's solid, idealistic lover, and Billy Eugene Jones is discreetly effective as a loyal servant to the Castles.

Odets was a left-wing New Yorker eventually transplanted to Hollywood, where he churned out scripts within the Hollywood studio system. While he surely enjoyed skewering the power and immorality of studio executives in "The Big Knife," he also probably heard about some real-life scandals that may inform this cynical play.

John Lee Beaty's set is an elegantly handsome, airy Los Angeles living space, and Catherine Zuber's often-glamorous dresses and sharp suits add to the glossy period atmosphere. "Try to be happy — this isn't a Russian novel," Charlie playfully tells Buddy. But by the dramatic conclusion, it's clear that Odets' script was informed both by sensational tabloid headlines and the tragic hubris found in great Russian literature.