Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: The Star (1952)

Bette Davis in "The Star" (1952)

On the day the Oscar nominations go out, I decided to take a look at what might be by today’s standards, a forgotten film. The Star, featuring Bette Davis and directed by Stuart Heisler, is a cautionary tale about what is on the other side of a hugely successful, award-winning career.

For Bette Davis at this stage in her professional life, the film must have felt like a semi-autobiographical sketch. Made two years after her ‘comeback’ in the classic All About Eve, this would prove to be one of her last fully rounded roles.

For her role as the down-on-her luck award-winning actress, Davis received the ninth of her ten Academy Award nominations [she would receive one more for Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)].

The Star is the story of a has-been actress (Margaret Elliot) who is willing to sacrifice anything and anymore for another shot at the big time. Left to suffer in her wake: her teenaged daughter Gretchen (Natalie Wood), from whom she shields her professional and financial woes, and Jim Johannsen (Sterling Hayden), a young actor who has great affection for Margaret in spite of herself.

Sterling Hayden and Bette Davis

If you have not seen The Star, you are in luck (as long as you have TCM). It will be shown on Sunday, February 26th (Oscar™ Night) at 8:00PM Eastern Time.

Please visit Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog every Tuesday for more overlooked/forgotten films.

Comments

  1. I have to rewatch this and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – love the ending of that movie btw. Thanks for posting and feel free to drop by me too, soon.

  2. Patti Abbott says:

    There are a few actors that put me off any movie and Davis is one. Her deliberate delivery takes me right out of any story. She didn’t do it early on, but over time it grew. I wonder if this bothers anyone but me.

    • I am pretty sure you are not alone in your assessment of Ms. Davis. Yes I think she had a tendency to be a little OTT with the melodrama at times, but in some of my favorite films of hers (All About Eve, Now Voyager, Of Human Bondage and The Little Foxes) she was quite alright.

      In general I feel like she and her contemporaries (namely Joan Crawford) at this point of the 1950’s onwards became odd caricatures of themselves. Nothing says it more than Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. That took the cake for me in terms of camp.

  3. Hi, Iluv and company:

    Excellent choice for a Tuesday Overlooked Film!

    ‘The Star’ always struck me as a continuation of ‘All About Eve’ and Bette Davis’ role as Margo. Only under a different name.

    Who had hit her zenith well before ‘Eve’s final reel. Thanks to George Sanders. Playing basically the same ego driven character in ‘The Star’. Which focuses on Margaret wallowing in her downward spiral. Reveling in cliched, scenery chewing, campy scenes. Kind of a weird mix of ‘Margaret Pierce’, Sunset Blvd.. And Bette laying the groundwork and preceding Steven Boyd’s obnoxiously arrogant leading role as Frank Fane in ‘The Oscar’ from 1966.

    • Oh I forgot about The Oscar. I have heard of the film but am sure that I did not see it.
      This film is definitely a companion piece to the titles that you have mentioned.

  4. That’s a great choice and perfect timing. Unlike Patti, I usually like Davis’ performances a great deal barring a few exceptions, if nothing else because you could always sense that she knew how to laugh at herself. Now, Joan Crawford on the other hand, despite starring in some of my favourite movies like Mildred Pierce for instance, I really have a hard time liking …

    Sergio

  5. this is one that I have grossly overlooked. Thank you for bringing it under your spotlight. Bette Davis, always a classic choice.

  6. This is a very fitting choice in light of today’s Oscar noms! I’ve never seen anything by Bette Davis, yes I know, I should get on that 🙂

    • After you are done with Greg Peck, eh? 🙂

      • Ahah yeah, not sure when I will as I kept finding more films of his I want to see. I never thought I’d be so smitten by a classic actor but Gregory is just so amazing in any genre. The Macomber Affair that I mentioned in my tweet today is such a great film (he played a white hunter in a story by Ernest Hemingway) but the dvd quality I got is horrible, still waiting for a replacement.

        • Was it a burn from a home recording. There are a few classic films that I have been looking for FOREVER and I have found them, but they are burns from a VHS recording or off TV; but the quality is quite bad indeed.

          One suggestion would be to check out the TCM Shop every so often and see if they come out with a Gregory Peck Collection (if they already do not have one) or if they have a Greg Peck fest on TV (probably around his birthday).

  7. I must say, I’ve never heard of this film. (Not that that means much really, I’ve never heard of a lot of films.) I really thought I was familiar with most of Bette Davis’ work.

    I agree with you and Patti. I too tired of Davis’ delivery in her later films. She always seemed too much the diva.

    Though I loved her in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, THE LETTER, THE LITTLE FOXES, ALL ABOUT EVE and a couple of others.

    There was a scene in THE BAND WAGON very similar to the photo you’re showing of the auction poster. In that, Fred Astaire’s movie star effects are being sold off as he says goodbye to his movie star career and heads for Broadway.

  8. I’m rather torn when watching ‘The Star.’ It exploits Davis’ powerhouse persona and acting genius, while yet seeming to mock her by having her character try out for parts way too young for her. Although the film seems to be a hint/wink about Davis’ career, supposedly the screenwriters actually based the main character on Joan Crawford, which I can imagine must have given Bette a delicious sense of schadenfreude when playing the role. Crawford herself was nominated for an Oscar that same year, 1952, for ‘Sudden Fear,’ so the 2 ladies were competing with each other (they both lost to Shirley Booth). ‘Sudden Fear’ is an excellent noir and would make a good “overlooked film” subject; Crawford plays a strong character in that one, going up against Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame.

    • That’s right Come Back, Little Sheba; I liked that film. I quite liked Sudden Fear too – not sure (would have to check) but I think that someone who contributes to our series may have written about that film.

      As for Davis and The Star, my only hope that she had enough self-awareness to be quite tongue in cheek about it. I suspect she had some moxy 😉

      Thanks for your insight Grand Old Movies and welcome to i luv cinema 🙂

  9. Geeked about the “Red Hook Summer.” You should do a spotlight on the underrated, highly-selective young actor Nate Parker. 😉

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