Cinema Jolly > 11:30


Stuart Heisler


Tuesday 25/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

“Come on Oscar, let’s you and me get drunk”, says Bette Davis, as Margaret Elliott, picking up the Academy award on her desk (her own Oscar in fact). Already intoxicated, Davis drives across town giving us a ghost tour of LA mansions, which look like exhibits in a wax museum. With one hand on the wheel, she puts the statue on the dashboard, its head hidden behind the rear-view mirror. She grabs the bottle and makes a toast, “To absent friends”, the image of the headless piece of gold, the blurred lights in the darkness and the bottle capturing Hollywood’s solitary universe in one shot. Telling the story of a former movie star whose career and psychological wellbeing are in decline, The Star has the hardboiled cynicism missing from recent biopics such as Judy (2019). Conceived as a sequel of sorts to All About Eve, here the ride is bumpier than ever. In reality, the early 1950s were not exactly years of struggle for Davis. She meant it as a dramatisation of what she actually wished on her rival, Joan Crawford. Sterling Hayden (who got the role at Davis’ suggestion) playing an actor who has abandoned Hollywood for sailing is closer to real life. And the sight of a young Natalie Wood falling from the deck of a boat in one scene, provides an eerie prophesy of her final tragedy. Shot in 24 days, the film is eloquently conceived, and explores some of Heisler’s favoured themes, such as the conflict between motherhood and career (Smash-Up; Tulsa), and the experience of helping to establish a world of shared dreams through the entertainment business only to be barred from it (Smash-Up). The characters drift towards the edge before returning, scarred but sober (see also Journey into Light). Heisler lays the emotions bare, making characters seem even more vulnerable than they really are. The language of melodrama, almost perfected here, prevails, but the desperate search through the night and the hopeless knocking on doors recalls the logic of film noir too.

Ehsan Khoshbakht

Cast and Credits

Scen.: Dale Eunson, Katherine Albert. F.: Ernest Laszlo. M.: Otto Ludwig. Scgf.: Boris Leven. Mus.: Victor Young. Int.: Bette Davis (Margaret Elliot), Sterling Hayden (Jim Johannsen/Barry Lester), Natalie Wood (Gretchen), Warner Anderson (Harry Stone), Minor Watson (Joe Morrison), June Travis (Phyllis Stone), Paul Frees (Richard Stanley). Prod.: Bert E. Friedlob per Thor Productions 35mm