Monday, July 03, 2017

Marjorie morningstar 1958


A very precious love. Made in 1958 but looking like a throw back to all those glamorous woman weepies of the 1940’s, this one was actually directed by one of the kings of that genre Irving Rapper. A Warner Bros. contract director Rapper made some of the best Bette Davis movies including the divine and dripping with tears and silliness “Now Voyager”  and “Deception.” Marjorie was based on a Herman Wouk novel and set among the upper middle class Jews of New York City which alone was an unusual and somewhat brave plot device for this kind of movie to take on at the time.
                             The film opens with Ed Wynn who plays Uncle Samson arriving at the Morgenstern’s new apartment on Central Park West on the day of their young son’s Bar Mitzvah and there is even a sequence of the ceremony along with a scene of a Passover seder later on in the film. Their young 17 year old daughter Marjorie played by Natalie Wood who by the way is so breathtakingly beautiful that I gasped when she makes her first appearance. Marjorie is smitten with the theater and is smart and itchy to start her life preferably away from her always looming parents played by Everett Sloane and Claire Trevor but she is on her way to Hunter College like it or not.
                      She is goaded by her best friend the tartly tantalizing somewhat wild Carolyn Jones, who talks her into taking a job with her as a summer counselor at an all girls camp. Soon they are row row rowing their canoe across the lake to the adult summer resort that is host to the somewhat lazy and rundown summer stock theatre group run by Gene Kelly a failed composer who has been working on his musical forever without much success and longs for the fame that constantly eludes him . 
             Kelly was too old for the part and was at the end of his impressive career in movie musicals, his bad toupee didn’t help matters, but he still had his sex appeal and charm and if you squint a bit he can squeeze his 46 years to a workable 33. Natalie is soon smitten with Gene who gives her the name of Marjorie Morningstar and they start an affair that is rough and unhappy. There are several other suitors knocking at her door including Ed Burns a few months away from his kookie days on tv, Martin Balsam as a doctor, and Martin Milner as the loyal assistant to Gene Kelly who makes it big on Broadway in a wink of the eye, but Natalie only has eyes for Gene. The film opened at Radio City Music Hall and was a hit with the teen set (my sister adored it) and was generally panned by the critics but that didn’t stop the audiences from flocking to see it, especially since it had a big hit song running through it, “A Very Precious Love.” The restoration is pretty nice with saturated colors and the 50’s clothes are wonderful, and then there’s Natalie.


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