Michael WoodsLondon Review of Books piece on Vincente Minnelli‘s The Bad and the Beautiful led me to this clip. Woods describes it as “the one truly terrible moment” in the film, and he’s right. The scene is labored and campy (Elaine Stewart‘s acting as “that low woman Lila” is awful) but — but! — when Kirk Douglas says to Lana Turner, “You couldn’t enjoy what I made possible for you, no…you’d rather have this,” it’s great.

I’m speaking of the way Douglas’s voice breaks and slips into self-loathing. It was a trademark of his — confessing some primal emotion or expressing some deeply felt principle, and his voice cracking under the emotional strain. It was one of the behavioral mannerisms that made him “Kirk Douglas,” and therefore a star. He was so perversely good at being Kirk Douglas that it didn’t matter if he was a histrionic type — he was delivering the goods.

The good part starts at the 3:00 mark.