The Worst Biopics… Ever

by Barry Koltnow - The Orange County Register (MCT)

17 January 2012

Here are the worst biographical films of all time, accompanied by my usual negative comments.

My boss cheated on me.

While I was on vacation, he ran somebody else’s movie list in my space. I’ve never felt so betrayed.

But we both learned something from the experience. We learned that the half-empty glass gets so much more attention than the half-full glass.

Allow me to explain.

The editor — for the sake of clarity, let’s call him Jeff — ran a news-service story listing the 10 best movies of 2011, according to the syndicated writer with whom my boss was cheating. The story did well enough in the online version of this newspaper that my editor was motivated to run a follow-up column from the same writer.

The second story was a list of the 10 worst movies of 2011, and it drew five times as many readers as the original.

“Don’t you think that’s interesting?” the editor asked.
“Why would you think I would be surprised by that?” I responded. “I have made a living out of being negative.”

In fact, I was scolded once for being too negative by Shirley MacLaine. Although the actress has since forgiven me, she was angered at the tone of my questions, and instructed me to work on being more positive. That’s not going to happen.

But I was encouraged by my editor’s discovery that many of you are just as negative as I am. It was heartening to learn that we are bonded in a negative way.

Therefore, I am inspired to write something negative today.

I recently compiled a list of the 40 best biopics (biographical films) of all time, so a list of the worst biopics was begging to be written.

I timed my original list to the opening of Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady, in which the two-time Oscar winner portrays former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Early reviews suggest that Streep could pick up her 17th Oscar nomination for the role. I am sure I will have something negative to say about it if she does.

For now, here are the worst biographical films of all time, accompanied by my usual negative comments.

Barry Koltnow - The Orange County Register (MCT)

#1 - Great Balls of Fire

Dennis Quaid’s subtle portrayal (I’m being sarcastic, which is a negative writing style, of course) of pioneer rocker Jerry Lee Lewis is a joke. I have read that some people like this movie. I think anyone who likes this movie is either an anarchist or emotionally damaged. But anarchists and emotionally damaged people are entitled to their opinions.

#2 - Gable and Lombard

Decades before Angelina and Brad, and years before Liz and Dick, there were Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. There has never been a more glamorous Hollywood couple, and the actress’ tragic death in an air crash immortalized the romance. However, if all you knew of Gable and Lombard came from this 1976 disaster film — starring James Brolin and Jill Clayburgh — you would be mystified that anyone ever cared about these Hollywood stars.

#3 - The Babe

I interviewed John Goodman for this movie, and he told me that he was shocked when producers told him he had to lose weight before starting the role. “When you have to lose weight to play Babe Ruth, you’re in trouble,” he said.

#3a - The Babe Ruth Story

William Bendix played the Sultan of Swat, although he resembled the Crown Prince of Corn in this portrayal.

#4 - Alexander

Trying to be positive for a moment, this Oliver Stone biopic about Alexander the Great includes some sizzling scenes of nudity. Otherwise, it’s a horrible waste of time.

#5 - The Conqueror

John Wayne played Mongol leader Genghis Khan, and it wasn’t pretty. You may be are aware of the curse on this film, which was filmed in an area that apparently was impacted by earlier nuclear tests in the desert. An alarming number of the cast and crew (including Wayne) were stricken later by cancer.

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