In his day producer Allan Carr was known as "flamboyant"--a code word for gay. This was at a time when being openly gay in Hollywood could mean career suicide. Yet Carr (1937-1999) flaunted his sexuality, which didn't stop him from rising to the upper echelons of the film industry when he produced “Grease” (1978), then the top-grossing movie musical of all time.
Now, filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine, Tab Hunter Confidential) chronicles Carr's colorful life in “The Fabulous Allan Carr,” an entertaining and fascinating new documentary available on a variety of digital platforms.
Carr was a plain looking fat kid who was obsessed with Hollywood films of the 1930s and 40s. He yearned to bring that kind of glamour back to the screen and into his daily life. He often threw lavish parties during which Hollywood's elite would mingle with the young pretty boys of Carr's fantasies – he lavished gifts on these young men even as he wished that he could look like them. Carr was a lonely man – these parties were his personal life.
His flamboyance could often be a bit much for the conservative suits in Hollywood, but he was forgiven because he was a moneymaker. At a time when Ann-Margret's career was floundering, Carr became her manager and turned her into one of the highest paid acts in Las Vegas.
But there were failures. After the unprecedented success of “Grease,” Carr lost his touch when he produced the mega-bomb “Can't Stop the Music,” (1981) starring the Village People. Crowds also stayed away from “Grease 2,” Carr's sequel to his biggest hit.
But Carr wasn't quite through--there was one more success to be had when he won a Tony Award for bringing “La Cage Aux Folles” to Broadway. It was his next big project, producing the infamous, overblown 1989 Oscars, which resulted in a number of Hollywood stars and directors signing a letter of protest to the Academy, effectively ending Carr's career.
Schwarz presents all of these highs and lows in a fast-paced and enjoyable film. Many of Carr's friends and colleagues consented to be interviewed for the project--their memories and insight offer an intimate portrait of a complex man. Interviewees include Bruce Vilanch, director Randal Kleiser and choreographer Patricia Birch of Grease, Steve Guttenberg and Valerie Perrine from “Can't Stop The Music,” Lorna Luft, Michael Musto, Paramount Pictures executive Sherry Lansing, among many others.
Carr's homosexuality was a big part of who he was and is also a big part of Schwarz's film. Viewers may come away from the film with a deep admiration for Carr when they see just how out he was. He's seen flaming on a late 1970s appearance on The Mike Douglas Show, a popular chat and variety program of the period. Douglas looks uncomfortable. Carr obviously doesn't care.
“The Fabulous Allan Carr” is ultimately a look inside the life of a man who lived, worked and played on his own terms. He succeeded in Hollywood even as he refused to play the game. He made a bold statement about being gay without being political and deserves to be remembered.
The Fabulous Allan Carr is now available for viewing on iTunes, Amazon, Google and Vimeo.