Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz has added another subject to his series of documentaries on iconic LGBT figures which so far have included Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon, Tab Hunter Confidential, I Am Divine, and Vito. This time his subject Allan Carr may be not quite so well known to the general public, but his successful career as an infamous larger-than-life flamboyant Hollywood Producer and Agent make him a natural fit for one of Schwarz’s excellent and very compelling profiles.
Carr was born Allan Solomon in 1937, the only son of a wealthy Jewish family in Chicago and his parents spoilt him rotten, and indulged his every whim. From an early age he was fascinated to the point of being obsessed with everything to do with show business, especially with stars. One of his first ventures as a young man was that he opened Chicago’s Civic Theater and financed The World of Carl Sandburg starring Bette Davis who was touring with her then husband Gary Merrill.
Carr moved to L.A. in 1966 and changed his name and opened up his own talent agency Allan Carr Enterprises, and quickly demonstrated that he was not just a first-class salesman, but that he had a lot of chutzpah too as he was soon managing major stars such Tony Curtis, Peter Sellers, Rosalind Russell, Dyan Cannon, Melina Mercouri, and Marlo Thomas.
Carr was first and foremost a showman, and as well as managing his Clients, he started to achieve a reputation for mounting extraordinary lavish promotional parties like the one the Australian impresario Robert Stigwood employed him to do for the rock musical movie Tommy, and then after that for the premiere of Saturday Night Fever. These events propelled Stigwood into making Carr the producer of the movie Grease who’s phenomenally world-wide success became the high-point of Carr’s roller-coast career.
Without doubt Carr’s best talent was in self-promotion and in publicizing his own involvement in his projects which were always at the expense of others who got totally overlooked, as in the case Grease’s director Randal Kleiser who was all but forgotten. Carr took the full credit for everything because he always made it about himself, so when he faced failure as with the campy musical he followed Grease with Can’t Stop The Music which totally bombed at the box office and was savaged by the critics, he took it all very personally.
Schwarz makes no attempt at hiding the very obvious fact that Carr had his own personal demons. He was a compulsive overeater who in the end took to wearing nothing but voluminous kaftans to hide his enormous figure, and as a gay man he surrounded himself with scantily clad pretty boys, yet never had his first sexual experience until he was in his 30’s. When it came to sex it seems that he was more of a voyeur than a player and at his celebrated pool parties in his lavish and glamorous mansion he would entertain ‘A’ list movie stars and Hollywood royalty alongside with some of the gay demimonde. When the stars left, then the party would quickly become nothing less than an orgy to satisfy Carr’s predilection for watching his stable of boys make out together, and occasionally even getting involved.
Carr always coveted professional respectability and acceptance which he finally got when in 1983 he produced La Cage Aux Follies the first stage musical on Broadway to tackle a gay theme head on. It was a mega success running for five years and 1,761 performances, and winning an impressive six Tonys, including a “Best Musical” win for Carr.
This success however was followed by a spectacular failure in 1989 when Carr landed his dream job of producing the 61st Annual Academy Awards. He was hired to create a show based on his promise that he would turn it around from the dry, dull show it had been in previous years, but the end result was panned by both the critics and the members of the Academy who publicly denounced Carr. Being censored by the Hollywood elite who he considered were his peers and friends was the worse thing ever for the overly sensitive Carr who never ever managed to salvage his reputation in the movie community after that.
It is hard not to warm to the opportunistic Carr who mixed his extraordinary flair with a great deal of charm and this very scary aspect of knowing that he was so out of his depth so very much of his time, a fact that never seem to daunt him in the very least. Carr’s life may be a mystery to many of us which in itself is a great pity but at least Schwarz’s affectionate profile will quite rightly change all that. Going into the movie you may struggle recalling who he was, but after 9o minutes you have had a glimpse at the star-studded rather glamorous life that would sadly seem so out of place in the more overly micro-managed of today.
The Fabulous Allan Carr is not only an essential piece of our community’s history that should be seen by everyone, it is also a rather fabulous movie too.