Monday, March 24, 2008


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

In the early 1940's Gertrude Lawrence, while starring in the Broadway musical Lady in the Dark, watches a newsreel summary 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.

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