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Thursday, November 27, 2014

More Of Bette Davis For Thanksgiving


BD Goes Drunk Driving With Oscar! --- The Star (1952)

Bette Davis passed on Come Back, Little Sheba, but did this. She'd later admit the mistake, forfeiting Sheba that is, for which Shirley Booth got the AA. The Star, however, was worthy to Davis estimate. Its story suited her, always a first consideration with this actress. She felt The Star was accurate re crash/burn of H'wood names past a prime, which Davis herself was by 1952, but not to degrading extent of her "Margaret Elliot" here. Was Margaret based on a specific fallen star? Drama looks lifted from life, Joan Crawford's according to Davis and screenwriters later. If they were having a laugh at Crawford expense, it was ill-timed. In 1952's case of Davis v. Crawford, it was decision JC, as her indie-produced Sudden Fear became the year's sleeper hit against tepid $808K in domestic rentals for The Star (foreign $368K). There ought to be a book about former contract players on their own in the 50's and which ones made right moves. Crawford may have been the desperate "star" to Davis the "actress," but decade scorecard suggests it was Joan who had sharper commercial instinct.


Happiest circumstance of The Star was not enough cash to dress stages and a backlot (producing Bert Friedlob renting what studio space he'd use), so out went cast/crew to L.A. actuals for what amounted to semi-doc of biz environ as it curdled under onslaught of TV and leisure preferred over picture-going. Davis didn't let vanity get in way of honest characterization. We anticipate What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? as faded BD trolls bleached streets in quest of a comeback that won't happen. She had to know some would look at The Star and say, Ah yes, Davis playing herself. This may the actress' best perf between All About Eve and Jane Hudson. Her Margaret Elliot has the clinger family, as did Davis, and there's arrest for drunk driving that happened lots to Gold Agers but was covered up by studios in control of law in and outside gates. There's highlight of Davis/Elliot clerking lingerie in a department store, this more a fate of actresses by the 60's than 50's, so it's at least prophetic. Still, there were instances in 1952 where customers could approach a counter and be waited on by a one-time star. Not a few silent era survivors found themselves at such impasse. Groceries were seldom free to former celebs.


Bert Friedlob was another of lone wolves chewing meat that was left on industry's husk. By '52, you had to be fast and cheap to realize indie profit. Bert had done some good ones, The Fireball and The Steel Trap, so earned trust of Davis. Timing was right for she and Friedlob to get together. Some parts of The Star were even shot in the producer's home, another plus and welcome peek of how at least one busy producer lived at the time. Compare another insider story from 1952, The Bad and The Beautiful, with The Star, the former a very "Hollywood" treatment about Hollywood, done with maximum Metro gloss, while The Star, cheap and gritty, shows more honestly a town in full flail before 3-D/Cinemascope hypo came to temporary rescue. The Star could be teaching tool for courses on the Classic Era. It sure reflects that mirror cracking. Warner Instant has The Star streaming in HD, and there's a DVD available.

3 Comments:

Blogger Randy said...

For a star who still has a reasonable amount of name recognition, Davis made an awful lot of movies that aren't well-remembered or often-watched today, even by old movie hounds.

5:42 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

The first time I saw this movie was twenty years ago in HBO (Latin American version. Later I learned that Natalie Wood, performing as Bette Davis' daughter, refused to do a scene in a swimming pool and Davis gave her full support.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

That photo of Davis in the "Twinkle Twinkle" ad looks exactly like Bette Midler.

1:18 PM  

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