Although even he admits he was not a very good actor—at least not in front of the camera—soon after his portrayal of Thalberg, he has hired by another producer baron, Darryl F. Zanuck, to portray the handsome young matador in Hemingway’s film version of The Sun Also Rises. He was evidently so bad that actors Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Eddie Albert, and Hemingway himself wrote a telegram to Zanack that Evans had to go or the film would be a disaster. I believe that film was a disaster, but not because of Evans. But the imperious Zanuck flew down to Mexico where it was being filmed, watched Evans perform, and through a bullhorn announced: “The kid stays in the picture,” the name of Evans’ own autobiographical tale and in 2002 the documentary directed by Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen.
Along the way in his rising career were other, often sentimental hits, such as Love Story—whose central actress, Ali MacGraw, Evans married, one of seven wives—none of the others even mentioned in this documentary; the directors claimed that to do so would simply slow down the narrative. Maybe, in fact, Evans’ high-charged story might have benefited by a slightly slower telling pace. I feel we never truly get to know the man who cannot, clearly, ever live with a woman for very long. Why was a truly handsome man, described throughout his life as a most eligible bachelor, never able to sustain a relationship? This documentary only hints at some of the problems.