Title: The Star
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Stuart Heisler
Music: Victor Young
Cinematography: Ernest Laszlo
THE STAR is a blatantly glamorizing star-vehicle for Ms. Davis, directed by a B-grade studio hack, Stuart Heisler. After her triumphant turn in ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), the film nabs her the tenth Oscar nomination, a record-setter at that time.
It is a scenario ever so familiar for Ms. Davis, she plays Margaret Elliot, an Oscar-winning, but now divorced and over-the-hill actress, she has designs on a comeback, but her broken financial status takes her to the rock bottom in the night of the auction of her belongings, she ends up in jail. Bailed out by Jim Johannsen (Hayden), a former sailor and one-time actor whom she discovered, now is a self-reliant mechanic. Jim has always been an admirer of her, and tries very hard to persuade Margaret to face the music of the ageism showbiz. They spend a tranquil time together, occasionally sail to the sea together with Gretchen (Wood), Margaret’s teenage daughter.
Margaret dabbles in working as a salesgirl under a pseudonym, but her ordinary life as a commoner doesn’t last long, she is a careerist, an egoist, a diva who cannot admit defeat so easily. Her agent gets her a secondary role in a new movie which she has hankering after for a long time. During the casting test, she contradicts the director’s request and sexes up her character under the delusion that the producer will change the idea to recast her as the young protagonist after seeing her test reel. It goes without saying that she fails to get the part, eventually, a not-too-late wake-up call prompts her to accept the reality check.
The script runs unevenly from triteness (is it that easy for a former Hollywood matinee idol to pretend as another person and work in a department store?) to occasionally well-conceived metaphor (the upmarket Desire Me perfume Vs. its sample bottle with colored water), but has no guts to lift the lid on the paternalism and prejudice of Tinseltown, both Margaret’s agent (Anderson) and the producer (Watson) are depicted with benevolence, as if they shouldn’t share any responsibility of what has happened to the types like her. Ms. Davis splendidly wears her heart on the sleeve, it is a juicy part, although Margaret is far from a character in line with her persona, Bette Davis will never quit working just because she can no longer play maiden roles, she will feistily fight back, take the has-been part, ignites the screen and proves her prowess, that’s the right thing to do in hindsight, but THE STAR advocates a more patronizing option for middle-aged female washed-ups, just to find a man who is willing to put up with such a prima donna and never come back, that’s plain unforgivable.