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

Thursday, March 29, 2018


Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly
MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR (1958). Director: Irving Rapper.

Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) takes a job at a summer resort and falls in love with the theater director, Noel Airman (Gene Kelly). At first Noel, who hides his Jewish roots, tries to convince himself that Marjorie is just another "Shirley," a typical Jewish American Princess, and her middle-class desires would never fit in with his plans. Still, over the years the two can't pull themselves away from each other, and their on-again/off-again relationship is beset with problems. Herman Wouk's novel has been reduced to an entertaining, slick soap opera that has some very good performances. Wood gets high marks as Marjorie, really giving a first-rate and honest portrayal of a tormented young lady. Gene Kelly just can't seem to get that far away from Gene Kelly, and his anguish over his failings both as an artist and a man just don't ring true -- he's too much of a winner for it to work. It's a perfectly good "Hollywood" performance but nothing more. As Marjorie's parents, Everett Sloane [The Big Knife] and especially Claire Trevor [The Velvet Touch] are more on the money, and Ed Wynn [Son of Flubber] makes his mark as Marjorie's beloved Uncle Samson. Carolyn Jones as Marjorie's best friend has a terrific scene when she nearly has a meltdown just before her wedding (as she's marrying Jesse White one can completely understand!). There are also good, if brief, performances from Martin Balsam as a doctor who falls for Marjorie; Edd Byrnes (billed as Edward Byrnes) as Marjorie's first boyfriend, Sandy; Martin Milner, as a playwright who carries a torch for Marjorie for years; Ruta Lee as a gal pal of Noel's; and others. Max Steiner has contributed a pleasant romantic score which helps a bit in putting this over.

Verdict: At least Wood and Kelly have definite chemistry! **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Hi Bill - I can't believe I've never seen Marjorie, though I have read about it in the past. Sounds like a fascinating story, ahead of its time for the 1950s, and an amazing cast. Natalie and Gene look like they make a lovely couple, and the rest of the cast--Sloan, Trevor, et al, are first rate. I need to finally see this one!

William said...

Well, it's no masterpiece, but it's not boring, either, and Wood and Trevor are excellent. Kelly is still a convincing romantic lead if not the best casting.