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A poor but beautiful girl named Jeanne takes part in a beauty contest but fails to be crowned its queen. Nevertheless both her determination and her shapely figure impress Sal Satori, the organizer, so much that he gives her a job as a carnival dancer. He becomes her friend and, before long, her great love. However, being a hootchie-kootchie dancer is not Jeanne's dream: she wants to be an actress. That is why Jeanne takes advantage of the Satori company being in New York to consult a renowned drama teacher, Mrs. Neilson. The latter thinks she CAN act and she is proved right since the audience of the first play Jeanne is in responds favorably. But Jeanne will only feel wholly satisfied when she acquires star status. She soon obtains the part which will lead her to stardom by stealing it from Elsie Desmond, an aging actress who planned a comeback through it. In desperation, Elsie commits suicide. Although feeling somewhat guilty, Jeanne openly relishes her triumph, which upsets her ... Written by
The song that Jeanne (Kim Novak) sings in her "last movie" "Forever Young", "I'll Take Romance" was written in 1937, eight years after Eagels death. The song appears in the 1937 film with the same name. See more »
Although Jeanne Eagels is a fascinating film with one of two career roles for Kim Novak, the other being Vertigo, it does do some disservice in telling the story of the legendary Jeanne Eagels, Broadway star of the Twenties. The Roaring Twenties was a hard partying era, especially on women as three of the brightest stars of that era, Marilyn Miller, Helen Morgan, and Jeanne Eagels died way to soon because they indulged too much.
That part of the story is all too true, Jeanne went like Elsie in the title song from Cabaret, from too much pills and liquor. What's not true is the fact that Jeanne was basically a raw talent who came to Broadway out of nowhere and then died. Eagels did pay her dues in a long hard road in stock companies. The character that Jeff Chandler plays is based on someone she did actually marry, one of the heads of a touring company, not a carnival barker. Her second husband played by Charles Drake was a Broadway playboy and former All American football player.
The surviving members of the Eagels family did threaten suit against Columbia Pictures for this film. From what I've researched about Eagels she got a whitewash in this picture.
Kim Novak does a great job playing Eagels, a woman who indulged too much in her life. She picked Jeff Chandler for her leading man in Jeanne Eagels. This was Chandler's first picture after finishing up his exclusive contract with Universal Studios. His new contract was non-exclusive and this was his first outside film. Jeff dusted off his Brooklyn accent for his role as the carnival man who loves Jeanne, but stands by helplessly as she self destructs.
Agnes Moorehead plays Jeanne's acting coach and Larry Gates her overwrought producer. This film was the farewell performance of Gene Lockhart who has a brief scene as the presiding member of an Actors Equity Hearing. Eagels got herself in lots of problems with Equity back in the day because she blew off performances. Lockhart was active in Equity and essentially is playing himself.
There is one other really good performance, a very touching one by Virginia Grey of a fading Broadway star who also dissipated herself. The role is great, but of course it has no basis in fact, Eagels did not 'steal' the play Rain away from this woman or anyone else.
Jeanne Eagels is a fine film capturing the essence of a self destructive star of a bygone era though factually it leaves quite a lot to be desired.
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