I'm shocked that so many reviewers here were disappointed in Bette Davis' appearance, wardrobe, lighting and make up in this film. People, she was playing a dead broke has been. She looked perfect for this role as Margaret Elliot, the once glamorous Oscar-winning star of the movies. Had she looked like the stylish Margo Channing of "All About Eve", her "Margaret Elliot" wouldn't have been as convincing.
Okay, the script wasn't perfect, but Davis approached this material like a true professional and gave the role everything she had, which was plenty. Davis never really cared about the way she looked and accepted the fact that she was no Garbo or Jean Harlow. She had played unglamorous parts many times before. Miss Davis was a true actress, an artist.
The picture is "dark", yes, but if it had been anything else, it would have ruined this film. The atmosphere created by the director was appropriate for the situation. Margaret was in trouble. She was scared to death and was desperate to get "back where I belong." She felt that "one good part" was all she needed.
After throwing her sister and brother-in-law out of her modest apartment in a screaming rage, Margaret grabs her Oscar, buys a cheap bottle of hooch and takes a drunken ride through the streets of Beverly Hills, stopping briefly by her old mansion where she sorrowfully breaks down in tears.
Davis looked like hell the morning after being bailed from jail by a former co-star (Sterling Hayden), who was miscast all over the place. She arrived home to find out that her key didn't fit anymore. She had been locked out for non-payment of rent. Defeated, now homeless, she tells Sterling Hayden, after he asks "where to?", "isn't this the end of the line?"
The papers are full of the scandal the next morning prompting Margaret to take advantage of the "publicity" as she storms into her agent's office and demands that he get her the role she's wanted to play for years in a script called "The Fatal Winter". "But, what about the papers?" the agent asks. She retorts, "Joe Morrison is MAD about publicity!" She is shocked when Morrison (the producer) wants her to play, not the lead, but the lead's older sister, Sara. Margaret is a STAR! So, she plots to get the lead by altering her screen test and playing Sara like a young siren so as to convince Morrison that he's made a mistake. The test is awful as played, but Davis, the actress was brilliant.
In this role, Bette Davis does everything but hit the ceiling! She pops her eyes, bites her consonents, screams, yells, gets drunk, fights with the police, gets thrown in jail, has the screaming meanies, tells off a couple of old ladies, slaps faces and smokes cartons of cigarettes. Now, that's acting!
When the Oscar nominations came out, Bette Davis was among the five nominees for "best actress" of 1952. Strange because Joan Crawford had been offered "The Star" and she turned it down flat. Davis had been offered "Sudden Fear" which she promptly refused. Bette had also been offered "Come Back, Little Sheba" but didn't feel the part was right for her, leaving Shirley Booth to repeat her stage success on screen. So, Bette accepted "The Star" and Joan grabbed "Sudden Fear". All three got nominated for the Academy Award! Booth won.
In 1952, Bette Davis' career was on the skids. She, like Margaret Elliot, needed a juicy part to put her back on top. This role didn't do it, but it kept her working throughout the '50s with varying degrees of success. My favorite, besides "The Star" was "The Catered Affair" (1956).
Despite the criticism I've read here of the film, I enjoyed it and it is an important part of my film collection. Bravo Bette!