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William D. Russell
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Middle-aged Oscar winning actress Margaret Elliot - Maggie to those that know her - is a Hollywood has-been. Her life is in shambles. She clings to the hope of resurrecting her past movie stardom as a leading ingénue. No one will hire her, she's penniless with creditors selling off anything that she owns that is of monetary value, and she has no one to turn to that can see her through financially. She has in the past supported her sister and brother-in-law, who still want to use her as their meal ticket. Divorced from her actor husband, she shares joint custody of their teen-aged daughter Gretchen, from who Maggie tries to hide her problems. When it looks as if Maggie has hit rock bottom, Jim Johannsen re-enters her life. Jim, who once had the stage name Barry Lester, got his big break in Hollywood movies by Maggie. He came to the quick realization that he was neither good as an actor or that he wanted to do it as a profession. He now works as a boat parts supplier and mechanic. Jim ... Written by
Bette Davis is doing a dry-run/out of town opening for her own future in "The Star". Playing a actress down on her luck and getting it from all sides (creditors are selling her possessions, her ex-husbands' new wife is constantly condescending and her sister is always at the door for a crisp $20.), her only refuge is her daughter, played by Natalie Wood in what appears to be her gawky, teenage phase.
Bette smokes as much as usual, completely blows her top at least five times, and in the most memorable scene, takes her Oscar on a drunken tour of all the young actresses houses - good thing they all live on the same street!
This character is a step below Margo Channing, well on her way to Baby Jane Hudson. Davis received her second-to-last Oscar nomination - her last being for "Baby Jane". She owns the screen because she brings a humanity to the character - she still has her pride, even though that doesn't get you very far in a town with a short memory.
I believe the Oscar used was one of Bette's - at least they didn't use one of those phony ones. Its a symbol in the movie of what once was.
I give Davis a lot of credit for playing characters close to her own life ( I would imagine even she felt the ageism of Hollywood ) and when she says that she's directed more than one director, you can tell she knows what she's talking about.
Its also poignant and a little disturbing to see Natalie Wood on a sailboat at one point.
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