Kirk Douglas plays the corrupt and amoral head of a major film studio in this Hollywood drama, often regarded as one of the film's industry's most interesting glimpses at itself.
Actress Gloria Lorrison (Lana Turner), director Fred Amiel (Barry Sullivan), and screenwriter James Lee Bartlow (Dick Powell) are invited to a meeting at a Hollywood sound stage at the request of producer Harry Pebbel (Walter Pidgeon).
Pebbel is working with studio chief Jonathan Shields (Kirk Douglas), whose studio is in financial trouble and needs a blockbuster hit. If these three names will sign to a new project, he's convinced that there's no way he can lose. But there's a rub -- all three of these Hollywood heavyweights hate Shields's guts.
He dumped Gloria for another woman, he double-crossed Fred out of a plum directing assignment, and he was responsible for the death of James Lee's wife. All three are ready to tell Pebbel to forget it, until they hear the voice of Shields, calling from Europe to discuss the project by phone.
The Bad and the Beautiful won five Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Gloria Grahame.