'The Fabulous Allan Carr': Film Review

Courtesy of SIFF
'The Fabulous Allan Carr'
A lightweight but enjoyable doc targeting fans of stage and screen musicals.

Jeffrey Schwarz recalls the extravagant career of producer Allan Carr, from 'Grease' glory to Oscar shame.

Jeffrey Schwarz, a specialist in light gay-showbiz documentaries like I Am Divine and Tab Hunter Confidential, looks behind the scenes in The Fabulous Allan Carr, profiling a producer-manager whose considerable achievements have probably been overshadowed by his role in the great Rob Lowe/Snow White Oscar debacle of 1989. Benefiting from ample interview footage of this colorful self-promoter, the entertaining doc lacks the broad appeal of the Divine film but will play well to fest auds with a strong interest in musical theater and 1970s/'80s Tinseltown lore.

Friends from high school and college remember Carr (born Alan Solomon) as uncommonly gregarious; evidently, witnessing a Madison Square Garden celebration for Around the World in 80 Days convinced Carr that show business was the direction he should point that people-pleasing energy. He used his parents' money to produce plays and was soon booking talent for the TV show "Playboy's Penthouse." There, he learned about working with performers, inspiring him to move to L.A. to be a manager.

Many hows and whys are left out of this quick account of his early years, but Schwarz's slender films hate the idea of boring us. The director is eager to get to Carr's life as a rich man. Having discovered a Mexican exploitation flick and made a small fortune distributing it in America, Carr bought a house Ingrid Bergman once lived in and started throwing incredible parties. Fixated on Hollywood's glamorous golden age, he made a point of mixing aging stars with up-and-comers on the guest list. And, as an extremely "flamboyant" man who didn't talk publicly about his sexuality, he made a point of inviting the prettiest young boys California had to offer.

Carr fell hard for Grease onstage and produced the movie version with partner Robert Stigwood. The first royalty check he got, we're told, was for a cool $8 million. Can you blame the guy for deciding he was a genius, and sharing that opinion with anybody who'd ask? Some real bombs followed, though he'd return to credibility when he introduced Broadway audiences to La Cage aux Folles.

The doc is lighter on big-name interviewees than Schwarz's last couple of films, perhaps because its subject burned a lot of bridges with famous friends and clients. And it goes easy on the negative side of Carr's personality, though it can hardly ignore his eating disorder: He was always gaining or losing tremendous amounts of weight, and took to wearing caftans and kimonos as camouflage.

When it comes to the Academy Awards, the movie suggests Carr should be remembered not for that reviled opening number, but for two more lasting contributions to Oscar culture: He came up with the you're-all-winners wording "and the Oscar goes to ...," and,more consequentially, changed the way awards-hungry movies are released. According to former Universal president Thom Mount, Carr was helping him promote a bleak-sounding drama when he had a brilliant idea — Let's release this Deer Hunter thing in just one theater in NYC and one in L.A. the last month of the year, putting it fresh in the minds of Academy members when they make the year's nominations. The awards-contender season was born.

Production companies: Automat Pictures, Lottie & Lorraine Pictures
Director: Jeffrey Schwarz
Producers: John Boccardo, Jeffrey Schwarz
Executive producer: David Permut
Editors: Carl Pfirman, Jeffrey Schwarz
Music: Michael “The Millionaire” Cudahy
Sales: Jeffrey Winter, The Film Collaborative

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival

90 minutes