The Bad and the Beautiful (1952): Hollywood tell-alls have been a fixture of movies since the medium’s youth, although few have made the creative people the focus. One major exception is Vincent Minnelli’s fiction melodrama about Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), a scrappy, egomaniacal producer understood to be based on brilliant low-budget horror maven Val Lewton (Cat People), who had died the previous year. There are traces of David O. Selznick, too, and even Orson Welles—anyone who made a difference in an industry that doesn’t always reward genuine ingenuity.
Beware of a Holy Whore (1971): Rainer Werner Fassbinder made more than 40 films in less than 15 years, and if you want a rough estimate of what his chaotic sets looked like, check his early movie about movies. Based on the hellish shoot of Whity, it finds the cast and crew mostly idle, drinking, fighting and pairing off. Fassbinder only plays the line producer, while Lou Castel plays the director, but you know who’s in charge.
White Hunter Black Heart (1990): In a rare chatterbox role, Clint Eastwood plays John Wilson, a Golden Age director location scouting in Africa. But it’s obvious Wilson is actually John Huston prepping The African Queen, even if Eastwood refrains from Huston’s unique vocal stylings.
Chaplin (1992): No other director has a tedious, plodding prestige Richard Attenborough biopic all of their own.
Ed Wood (1994): It’s not exactly the ugly truth, stopping well before its filmmaker sank to the pits of alcholism and nudie pics. But Tim Burton’s biopic is entertaining and, more important, loving: If only good filmmakers had the zeal of Johnny Depp’s Edward D. Wood Jr. (On an exec’s reaction to Glen or Glenda?: “Worst film you ever saw? Well, my next one will be better!”)
Hitchcock (2012): 2012 found Vertigo named the Best Film Ever and a pile of Alfred Htichcock’s films transferred to Blu. As if to even things out, Hitchcock has been the subject of two muckraking docudramas. The Girl alleges he sexually blackmailed Tippi Hedren, while Hitchcock suggests he was just barely reined in by his brilliant wife Alma. Hitch was not, shall we say, a healthy person, but these claims are at best questionable, and surely we can recognize Alma’s work without shitting on Alfred.