A lavish musical production based on the life of British music hall and Broadway star Gertrude Lawrence, STAR! was created as a vehicle for Jule
Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews

Andrews. But had it not been for a reprieve on cable TV in 1993, the film ran the risk of being forever forgotten.

The movie did well in previews, but when it hit the theaters, the audience did not respond. One of the problems could have been the public's lack of familiarity with the film's subject, Gertrude Lawrence. Wise also suggests: "When you have a hit like WEST SIDE STORY or THE SOUND OF MUSIC, you have big word-of-mouth and a lot of repeat viewers, people who come back several times. STAR! didn't get the word-of-mouth and certainly didn't get the repeat viewers...."*

The film also had the misfortune of coming out after a popular similar film, FUNNY GIRL. Nevertheless, STAR! is a fine effort, with Wise using his craftsmanship to recreate a bygone era.

Synopsis In the early 1940's Gertrude Lawrence, while starring in the Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, watches a newsreel Newspaper Adsummary of her career and recalls her past: In 1915 as a young woman, Gertrude leaves her mother's home in Bermondsey and goes to Brixton to join her father, Arthur, and his partner Rose, who are performing at a seedy music hall. Deciding that she also wants a career on the stage, Gertrude eventually lands a chorus job in London in an Andre Charlot revue. There her deliberate attempts to steal the limelight nearly lose her job, but the company's stage manager, Jack Roper, intervenes. Gertrude marries Jack, but his idea of marriage conflicts with her professional ambitions, and they divorce shortly after the birth of their daughter, Pamela. Helped by childhood friend and confidant Noel Coward, Gertrude stars in Charlot's first New York revue and receives instant acclaim. Each success makes it more difficult for her to choose among her suitors, however, and she juggles diplomat Sir Anthony Spencer, American actor Charles Fraser, and New York stockbroker Ben Mitchell, without committing herself to any of them. Similarly, her preoccupation with her career has also led to estrangement from her rapidly-maturing daughter, Pamela. Eventually, Gertrude's increasingly extravagant lifestyle leads her to bankruptcy, and she collapses from overworking to pay off her sizable debts. Following an enormous success with Noel Coward in his Tonight at 8:30, Gertrude goes on to do her first dramatic role in Susan and God. After a long run, Gertrude sees Richard Aldrich, a New England banker whom she had met earlier while playing Private Lives in London. Though initially hostile toward him, Gertrude agrees to appear in Skylark at Aldrich's Cape Cod playhouse; and after scoring a personal triumph in Lady in the Dark Gertrude marries Aldrich.

From the AFI Catalog of Feature Films

Wise Facts
  • The studio tried to recoup their investment by cutting 50 minutes off the film and retitling it, THOSE WERE THE HAPPY TIMES. But it fared the same as the original.
  • Daniel Massey, who played Noel Coward, was the actual grandson of Coward.
  • Credits: 175 min. Robert Wise Productions; Distributed by: Twentieth Century--Fox Film Corp.;  Directed by: Robert Wise;  Produced by: Saul Chaplin;  Screenplay by: William Fairchild;  Edited by: William Reynolds;  Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo;  Music by: Lennie Hayton;  Production Design by: Boris Leven;  Sound by: Murray Spivack;  Costumes by: Donald Brooks;  Make-up by: William Buell;  Hair by: Hal Saunders; 
    Robert Reed Cast  Julie Andrews (Gertrude Lawrence), Richard Crenna (Richard Aldrich), Michael Craig (Sir Anthony Spencer), Daniel Massey (Noel Coward), Robert Reed (Charles Fraser), Bruce Forsyth (Arthur Lawrence), Beryl Reid (Rose), John Collin (Jack Roper), Alan Oppenheimer (Andre Charlot), Richard Karlan (David Holtzman), Lynley Laurence (Billie Carleton), Garrett Lewis (Jack Buchanan), Elizabeth St. Clair (Jeannie Banks), Jenny Agutter (Pamela), Anthony Eisley (Ben Mitchell), Jock Livingston (Alexander Woollcott), J. Pat O'Malley (Dan), Harvey Jason (Bert), Damian London (Jerry Paul), Richard Angarola (Cesare), Matilda Calnan (Dorothy), Lester Matthews (Lord Chamberlain), Bernard Fox (Assistant to Lord Chamberlain), Murray Matheson (Bankruptcy judge), Robin Hughes (Hyde Park speaker), Anna Lee (Hostess), Don Crichton (Gertrude's "Limehouse Blues" dance partner), Peter Church (Newsreel narrator), Jan Gernat (Stage manager), Conrad Bain (Salesman at Cartier's), Cast--The Daffodil Girls: Jeanette Landis (Eph), Dinah Anne Rogers (Molly), Barbara Sandland (Mavis), Ellen Plasschaert (Moo), and Ann Hubbell (Beryl)

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    1. Robert Wise On His Films, p. 76

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