The Rake

THE LAST TYCOON

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that “there are no second acts in American lives”; the film producer Robert Evans would beg to differ. The life of Evans, who died aged 89 in October last year, had a pristine Hollywood three-act structure, full of twists and tragic flaws. As head of Paramount, he produced some of the most admired American films ever, married seven times, and was a hypnotic raconteur with a unique sense of style. But he was also ostracised from the film business for a catalogue of terrible decisions. Evans had elements of both Fitzgerald and Gatsby: addictive, charming, contradictory, prodigious and tantalisingly unfulfilled.

Born in Manhattan in 1930 to Jewish parents on the Upper West Side — his father was a dentist in Harlem — the young Evans dabbled in radio acting and fashion, creating a women’s clothing company. A headline at the time read, “N.Y. Businessman Dives In Pool and Comes Out a Movie Star”. Darryl F. Zanuck soon cast him as the matador Pedro Romero in the 1957 adaptation of Hemingway’s , against the wishes of Ava Gardner and Hemingway. Zanuck stuck to his guns, with the edict: “The kid stays in the picture.”

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