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Star 80 (1983) - Plot Summary Poster

(1983)

Plot

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Summaries

  • Paul Snider is a narcissistic, small time hustler who fancies himself a ladies man. His life changes when he meets Dorothy Stratten working behind the counter of a Dairy Queen. Dorothy is a pretty but naive high school senior. Paul immediately falls for Dorothy, who sees in Paul a wise, worldly person unlike herself. Paul believes Dorothy is Playboy material, the magazine he sees as only a springboard to bigger and better things. Paul's dream does become a reality: not only does Dorothy eventually marry him, she becomes the August 1979 Playboy Playmate and ultimately Playboy Playmate of 1979, which does indeed lead to the start of an acting career. As Dorothy's star rises, Paul's life is one of a hanger-on as those in Dorothy's new circle, including Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner and movie director Aram Nicholas, don't much like Paul. Paul is unable to eke out a life of his own without using Dorothy's name, which she increasingly is reluctant to provide to her husband. Those that know the couple know their relationship cannot continue as is, and it's only a matter of how it will change or end is the question.

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  • Paul Snider, discovered Playboy centerfold Dorothy Stratten, pushed her toward stardom, and worshiped her at the altar of the Playboy mystique. Snider wants people to "treat us that special way, the way they treat Stars!" and when Stratten tries to shake him off her coattails, he explodes.

  • A successful young model finds trouble when her obsessive manager-turned-husband becomes dangerously jealous. Based on the true story of 1980 Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten.


Spoilers

The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • In 1978 Vancouver, B.C., Canada, local hustler and promoter Paul Snider gazes into a mirror as he practices introducing himself. He is known among local nightclub owners for his exploitation of women, his relentless ambition, his narcissistic personalty, and his remarkable talent for remembering people's names. One evening, upon entering a Dairy Queen restaurant, Paul is transfixed by a beautiful young 18-year-old clerk named Dorothy Stratten. A romance develops, and after several dates, Paul meets Dorothy's family on the night of her senior prom. Both Dorothy's brother, George, and her mother dislike Paul, but he succeeds in endearing himself to Dorothy's youngest sibling, Eileen.

    At the prom, Dorothy identifies the "jock" to whom she lost her virginity under the influence of alcohol, and the jealous Paul furtively jabs him with a penknife. Afterward, Paul takes Dorothy back to his apartment and convinces her to pose for semi-nude photographs. He hires a professional photographer, promising him a $1,000 "finder's fee" if she is offered a contract by Playboy magazine. Paul also hires a second photographer, offering the same terms, and awards him the fee. The photos get into the attention of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner who invites Dorothy to audition in Los Angeles, California, but when her mother refuses to sign the parental consent form, Paul forges her signature.

    After passing the audition, Dorothy is told that she will be featured as the "centerfold" in the magazine's August 1979 issue. With Hugh Hefner's help, Dorothy secures a job at the local Playboy Club and moves into her own apartment.

    Back in Vancouver, Paul has a tryst with an exotic dancer, who suggests that Dorothy may also be having affairs. Fearful of losing her, Paul telephones Dorothy and proposes marriage. He flies to Los Angeles and accompanies her to a party at the Playboy mansion, where he alienates Hugh Hefner with his sycophantic behavior. Dorothy is introduced to film producer Phil Wass, who offers her a small role in the low-budget production, 'Ball Bearings'. When Dorothy informs Hefner of her impending marriage, he advises against it, saying Paul has "the personality of a pimp." Although Dorothy proceeds with the marriage, Hefner keeps her under contract and sends her on a personal appearance tour.

    Paul earns a modest living producing a nightclub act comprised of male exotic dancers, while Dorothy appears in another low-budget film, 'Wednesday's Child'. Paul interrupts the production with a telephone call, and convinces Dorothy to finance his purchases of an expensive Mercedes-Benz sedan, promising to adorn it with a custom license plate that reads, "Star 80." Unable to afford a home of their own, Paul and Dorothy share a rented house with a young doctor named Geb, who notices Dorothy's growing disillusionment with Paul.

    Certain that Dorothy has a bright future as an actress, Hefner convinces acclaimed director Aram Nicholas (loosely based on film director Peter Bogdanovich) to cast her in his next picture, to be filmed in New York City. Dorothy worries that Paul will resent her extended absence, but Paul is more concerned with maintaining Dorothy's celebrity status and gives his consent. Once production is underway, however, Paul suspects Dorothy of sleeping with Aram Nicholas, and hires a private detective to spy on her.

    Meanwhile, Paul continues to have affairs of his own with other women, such as Billie Joan Worth, whom he seduces with the promise of an audition for Hugh Hefner. Exasperated by Paul's nightly telephone calls, Dorothy complains to Aram about her husband's controlling behavior and constant need for validation. The director convinces her to end the marriage, and then seduces her.

    In Los Angeles, the private detective informs Paul of the affair, advising him to sue Aram for alienation of affection. Paul purchases a pump-action shotgun, and wallpapers his bedroom with photographs of him and Dorothy. Geb and his girl friend, Robin, notice Paul's increasingly erratic behavior, and worry that he may attempt suicide. Upon her return to Los Angeles, Dorothy admits her affair with Aram, but promises Paul continued financial support, while ignoring his pleas to save their marriage. Dorothy agrees to a second meeting with Paul, despite Aram's advice to avoid him. The private detective equips Paul with a transmitter to wear during the meeting, enabling them to gather evidence for a lawsuit. When the transmitter fails to work, Paul decides to keep his appointment with Dorothy, confident that he and his estranged wife will reconcile.

    The following afternoon, Dorothy arrives at Paul's house and promises him $7,000, half of her savings. Paul is insulted by the offer, and threatens to shoot himself after Dorothy refuses to continue their business relationship. When she tries to comfort him, Paul alternately becomes enraged and apologetic. Dorothy offers herself to Paul and they have rough sex, even though he resents her pity. Afterward, Paul places the shotgun to Dorothy's head and fires, killing her.

    Meanwhile, the private detective attempts to reach Paul by telephone but gets no reply as Paul will not pick up the phone. At the same time, Aram edits his film. Elsewhere, Hugh Hefner considers Billie Joan Worth as a candidate for a Playboy centerfold. Back at the apartment, Paul places the shotgun to his own head, and says, "They won't forget Paul Snider," before pulling the trigger, killing himself.

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