Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie, Lillian Roth becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood ...
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Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie, Lillian Roth becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood sweetheart, David Tredman, he dies and Lillian takes her first drink of many down the road of becoming an alcoholic. She enters into a short-lived marriage to an immature aviation cadet, Wallie, followed by a divorce and then marriage to a sadistic brute and abuser Tony Bardeman. After a failed suicide attempt, Burt McGuire comes to her aid and helps her find the road back to happiness after sixteen years in a nightmare world, not counting the first twenty with her mother.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film is very good and yet very bad---a strange combination, that's for sure.
As a history teachers and film nut, the first thing I noticed about this movie was its very anachronistic sets, costumes and hairstyles. Now I am not saying it's a bad film, but it was very sloppy in portraying the life story of Lillian Roth. The film is supposed to stretch from about 1916 to 1955--but ALL of it looks like 1955. While this is occasionally a problem in films, I can't recall seeing one worse when it comes to replicating the era in which it was supposedly set. This is odd when you think about it, as this was a prestige film--with an expensive cast. So, you'd think they would have tried harder to get the look of the film right.
When the film begins, it's about 1916 and young Lillian is out on her first tryouts with her mother in tow. Suddenly, the film jumps some time in the future--when Lillian is an established star and life is pretty good (this would be about 1930). It's odd because not once were you told WHEN this film was occurring and it was odd that it just jumped ahead so quickly. It also skipped much of Lillian's life even when she was successful--and there was no mention of her film career or stage successes. Again, a bit sloppy.
What WAS done well was portraying the downward spiral of Miss Roth--especially the effects of alcohol on her functioning. In many ways, this aspect of the film and Susan Hayward's acting were the highlights of the movie. Her life as a drunk was every bit as vivid as Ray Milland's in "The Lost Weekend"...no, perhaps more so. While I am not a huge Susan Hayward fan, in this sort of loud and intense performance, she was at her best. Subtle was not her forte--and here she is well matched to her skills as an actress.
Now you need to see this bio-pic not as a literal version of the life of Lillian Roth. It's more like the paraphrased and altered life. While she was married many times, most of these marriages aren't mentioned and the men who she did marry in the movie were NOT the men she actually married--the names were different and I have no way of knowing if they were like the men in real life. So, for its quality as the actual life story of Roth, I'd give this one a 2 or maybe a 3. But, for its portrayal of alcoholism and its effects on her as well as its entertainment value, it deserves a 10! Its portrayal of her life change through AA is quite inspiring but not quite as good--simply because it implies that there is a 'finish' to sobriety (such as her sponsor telling her she no longer needs a sponsor and that she's 'graduating' from AA--two things that are NEVER true). This is very strange, I know, but the film is so good and so bad at the same time--it's a real mixed bag. Overall, I'd say the film is a solid 7 and is well worth seeing.
By the way, when Hayward first sings "Red, Red Robin" on stage, look carefully when it shows her and the audience. If you look really carefully, you can see that the audience was NOT originally in the scene but it was added afterwords--just look for the jittery border that separates the two. It's probably only noticeable on a very large TV and you have to be looking for it.
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