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Producer Not Quite a Golden Oldie

Lately, more movies have been built around such oldsters as Sean Connery (Finding Forrester) and Clint Eastwood (Space Cowboys). Television's latest example of this trend is The Last Producer, a USA Network original telepic that gives viewers a behind-the-curtain look at how youth-obsessed Hollywood treats its oldtimers.

Star and director Burt Reynolds has attracted such supporting players as Charles Durning and Ann-Margret. Reynolds does a nice job as Sonny Wexler, a has-been producer who sees a screenplay by a novice writer named Bo Pomerantz (Sean Astin) as his ticket to a comeback.

Durning and Benjamin Bratt also score with their portrayals-the former as Syd Wolf, a 40-year studio veteran who tries to help Wexler, and Bratt as Damon Black, an arrogant young studio vice president. Wexler-who had earlier optioned Bo's screenplay-is now worried that his option is three days from expiration.

To raise the $50,000 needed to buy the script, he anxiously contacts everyone he knows-even as Black secretly woos Bo and his lawyer with a hefty bid.

Wexler's loan contacts are a bizarre group of characters, ranging from his alcoholic, gambling-addicted son-in-law (Greg Germann) and a crooked insurance adjuster (Rod Steiger) to a self-centered actor friend (Robert Goulet) and a sleazy Armenian loan shark (Robert Costanzo).

Foiling Wexler's plan to use Wolf to sidestep the hot shot from Majestik Studios, Black fires Wolf-who is less than two years away from his pension. Soon after, the movie climaxes with a violent confrontation at a restaurant.

Clyde Hayes, who co-produced The Last Producer, also wrote the mostly interesting script.

This movie also will keep trivia buffs busy trying to spot veteran stars in fleeting walk-ons (including Erin Gray as a doctor and Angie Dickinson, James Farentino and Shecky Greene as poker-playing buddies). Ann-Margret also has a role brief enough to be labeled a cameo.

The movie also isn't helped by its slow pacing and use of a jazz score that's more in keeping with old private-eye flicks. And surely a veteran producer that's eager to gain access to studio execs wouldn't tool around in a battered Cadillac convertible with a missing door, as Wexler does here.

The Last Producer
will air on USA on Feb. 6 at 9 p.m.