Abner Hale, a rigid and humorless New England missionary, marries the beautiful Jerusha Bromley and takes her to the exotic island kingdom of Hawaii, intent on converting the natives. But ... See full summary »
George Roy Hill
Max von Sydow,
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The only credits seen at the beginning of the film are those for a fictional black-and-white short subject about Gertrude Lawrence. The film's real credits all appear at the end. However, the Twentieth-Century Fox logo is shown only in black-and-white, and with tinny 1940's-style sound recording, as part of that fictional newsreel. We never see the logo in color and stereophonic sound, although Twentieth-Century Fox released "Star!" See more »
It's de rigeur to dish this film; yes, it's interminable, and it's inevitable that Andrews outlives her welcome. (Not sure I can think of any star who WOULDN'T become somewhat wearisome in a biopic of this length). The pace is incredibly leisurely; the decision to work towards a wedding means that there is simply too much material. Unfortunately, there is no motor in the plot, no 'desire' that runs throughout, no theme; Andrews can't find a line for character development. Instead, there are endless changes of image, and endless set-piece re-creations of theatre history. Whatever else, you can't say that you're short-changed, but the experience is a little like having a whole box of chocolates force-fed to you at a sitting.
But Andrews works her tail off; she sings, she comedies, she thesps. She does her all-time best dancing. She generally outshines the frocks and the sets. It's probably deliberate that Gerty is chosen as the subject: it's an ADVANTAGE that most of the audience has never seen the real thing. Andrews is not trapped into a Streepish impersonation - she plays the script as if it's fiction.
Daniel Massey's Noel Coward is trapped by audience expectation; personally, I think it's very good, provided you accept that 'Noel Coward' is a fictional character based on a real person. He and Andrews have an excellent rapport, although I suspect the real Noel and Gertie were a bit more feral as performers. (Coward liked his godson's impersonation: but "A shade too many 'dear boys', dear boy.") In other roles, Beryl Reid and Bruce Forsyth are worth the price of admission (it's the English musical numbers that work best). The "beards" are dull: dull performers with a script that gives them absolutely nothing. (How much Sound of Music depended on the implicit threat of Christopher Plummer! )
In other news, Lennie Hayton's musical direction of this film is exemplary. The arrangements are simply splendid; this must just about be the last gasp of Hollywood's ability to pastiche all the styles of vaudeville and Broadway.
Bernie Leven's production design is so pervasive that it warrants savouring. You could argue that this is a movie that has been hi-jacked by its tradesmen: Wise hires all these great talents, and then "gives them their head".
I think "Star!" has all the joys of a triumphant folly. It's utterly predictable, but never dull (cf. Jumbo!) You have to be in the mood for it, and probably its pleasures are best savoured over several days, interspersed with Godard and Ken Loach.
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