Applying the Rules to Warren Beatty

DATELINE: Old Stars Don’t Fade Away


Rules don’t apply, and neither do dates. The film’s opening salvo tells the audience that dates have been changed. That’s only the beginning of Rules Don’t Apply.

It’s apparent that Warren Beatty’s return to films is rife with problems. He takes on Father Time and the Grim Reaper is right behind him this time. He knew the 1950s when he was a pinup boy for sleeping around with starlets, but he is now 80—and plays Howard Hughes when he was about 50. No wonder he stays mostly in the shadows.

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone has nothing on him.

A plethora of big names have small roles in the picture for the chance to work with Beatty. Candace Bergen is almost unrecognizable, along with Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Matthew Broderick, et al.

Beatty seems to want to produce a satire of sexual morals in the 1950s, but the jokes seem defensive on his part and, worse, holier than thou when he ridicules various religious faiths.

Alden Ehrenreich carries the heavy load of the picture, and he is more than watchable as an Audie Murphy lookalike. Ironically, Murphy was a hated rival of the real Hughes. Now that might have been a good subject.

Beatty has the good sense to take on the Charles Coburn role in the picture—not the romantic lead. Alas, even so, he shows less sense than Cary Grant who retired from putting himself into these difficult positions in his golden years. But like Clint Eastwood, it is hard to fall back from fame and talent, even if the years are merciless.

We also recall when James Cagney came out of retirement to make a movie comeback. It’s disconcerting for stars to remind us that nobody passes the test of time.