The Big Knife ★★★

This sounded promising and with a great cast, too. But... "The Big Knife" is like watching a staged play (which of course is exactly what it's based on). And theater and film are different mediums. The story is about a tormented Hollywood actor (here played by Jack Palance), who is desperate to leave the studio system to act in more quality work. But the studio boss (Ray Steiger) holds the cards due to a scandal years before that was covered up because he was a valuable "properly".

The film does a good job of portraying the underbelly of Hollywood, and the acting is all uniformly good. But it's often feels like one dramatic scene after another, with heavy emoting. Steiger was acclaimed for his role here, but he seemed too over-the-top for me. The other cast is uniformly excellent (Ida Lupino, Wendell Corey, Everett Sloane, Shelley Winters) but it's the stagey quality that remains the problem.

Interestingly, the play was written by Cifford Odets after he himself fled Hollywood screenwriting to return to the stage. On Broadway, the Palance role was played by John Garfield, and I actually think he would've been better in film version.

I saw this on the Watch TCM app, and it was part of their tribute recently to Rod Steiger.