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The V.I.P.s

     Orson Welles needed to eat... and eat. So here he is collecting a fat man's paycheck, waddling about with a vaguely Croatian accent doing a foppish parody of himself, as a self-absorbed corpulent film director in Anthony Asquith's fluffy The V.I.P.s. He's one of a bunch of greedy-for-money, compromised 1963 superstars - Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rod Taylor, Louis Jordan, Margaret Rutherford, Maggie Smith - caught in a fog at a London airport, waiting for their New York plane. It's Grand Hotel and Airport, only worse. The boring Rod Taylor scenes have him as a worry-wart Aussie scheming on the phone to keep his finances floating while his masochistic secretary, Smith, pines for his love across the room. Meanwhile, Liz is trying to dash away from her 13-year marriage and move on with Jordan, playing his umpteenth amiable just-a-gigolo role, and with Burton improbably cast as the cuckolded husband. But will Liz really, really leave her mellifluous-voiced Dick? The three-way scenes are mighty monotonous menage, the stuff of soap. Only Margaret Rutherford, PBS's Miss Marple, gets by in this inane movie, playing a batty British royalty so amusingly that she copped a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

(August, 2000)

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