Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


THE STAR (1952). Director: Stuart Heisler.

"Take a good look ladies! I am Margaret Elliot! And it is a shame that Margaret Elliot is waiting on a couple of old bags like you! I am Margaret Elliot and I intend to stay Margaret Elliot!" -- Margaret Elliot [Bette Davis]

Margaret Elliot (Bette Davis) was once one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but now her belongings are being auctioned off, she's locked out of her apartment by the landlady, and she drives around so drunk one night that she -- and her Oscar -- wind up in the hoosegow! Davis actually gives one of her best performances in this absorbing movie, and her character is self-absorbed and a bit monstrous at times, but also sympathetic. Davis has several particularly effective scenes in this: telling off her greedy relatives, who don't seem to understand that she's broke; yelling at two nosy and nasty customers when she temporarily [very temporarily] takes a job as a sales clerk (see dialogue quote above); and when she reacts to a screen test as she realizes to her horror that trying to play a drab middle-aged woman as if she were a much younger sexpot was a disastrous mistake. The amusing opening has Davis walking into her own agent Harry (an effective Warner Anderson) carrying off the chandelier from her mansion at the aforementioned auction. [Apparently, nothing sold for very much because it does nothing to relieve her financial problems; she never mentions getting any money from the auction house in any case.] Sterling Hayden gives a nice performance as a former leading man and ex-actor who comes to Margaret's rescue and bails her out of jail; and young Natalie Wood is lovely and adept as her worshipful daughter. Kay Riehl and Fay Baker are also notable as, respectively, Margaret's compassionate landlady and her not-so-understanding sister. Minor Watson from Beyond the Forest plays a studio chief; Katherine Warren is his wife and both are swell. Blossom Rock/Marie Blake, sister of Jeanette Macdonald, plays a maid. Very nice score by Victor Young. Starlet Barbara Lawrence, one of the sweet young things supplanting aging actresses like Elliot, plays herself. She had appeared in A Letter to Three Wives and years later was in Kronos, making her last film in 1962. Paul Frees also appears as a producer who tries to interest Margaret in a script.

Verdict: Very entertaining and vivid. ***1/2.

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