NBC's "Moviola," a six-hour trilogy taken from a negligible Garson Kanin book, peaks up tonight-with its second installment, "The Scarlett O'Hara Wars," adapted by William Hanley.
The film, at 9 on Channel 4, purports to recall the ballyhoo and folderol that surrounded producer David O. Selznick's search for the perfect Scarlett to play opposite Clark Gable's Rhett in "Gone with the Wind." Hanley's tone is funnier, more flip and less snidely sulkly than in last night's "This Year's Blonde," the "Moviola" opener.
Tony Curtis may be a far cry from David O. Selznick in every perceptible way, but he brings the charm of an aging thug to the role, and Bill Macy makes a disarming slezaoid out of the character of Selznick's brother.
Director John Erman seems in good humor, too, especially during a nicely composed talent-hunt montage that invokes the narrative verve movies used to have. The production is not just handsome, but gorgeous, and it concludes with the nearly Pirandellian feat of simulating the simulation of the burning of Atlanta.
There is still cause for embarrassment and unintended irony, however. Sharon Gless and Carrie Nye may be estimable actresses in their own right, but, assigned to portray familiar, adored figures like Carol Lombard and Tallulah Bankhead, they bring to mind little girls dressing up in mommy's lipstick to play house.
And when Gwen Humble as Paulette Goddard throws a fit for the benefit of Clive Revill as Charles Chaplin, the heresy really gets hairy. Finally finally, though, the intriguingly beautiful Morgan Brittany shows up for a last-minute cameo as Vivien Leigh, and the soundtrtack strikes up Max Steiner's "Tara" theme, and "Moviola" does manage some semblance of spine-tingling. Getting there has been about one-quarter of the fun.