Marjorie Morningstar [VHS]
Marjorie Morningstar (Natalie Wood) is a beautiful eighteen-year-old eager to work in the glitzy world of the theatre. Leaving behind her stable home-life and reliable fiancé, she heads for an east coast resort for a summer season of fun and experience. There she meets and falls in love with producer Noel Airman (Gene Kelly), who sweeps her off her feet in a passionate love affair. Following him to Broadway where he wants to break into the big time, she soon learns some valuable life lessons.
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The film is from 1958, and was adapted from a novel by Herman Wouk, so though it is long and wordy, there is a lot of depth and I do intend to read the novel next.
Marjorie is 18, the daughter of Jewish New Yorkers who have done quite well for themselves in life, and she is soon to graduate college. Her parents hope she will marry a young man with prospects. She hopes to become an actress. To get some thinking time, she takes a summer job at a resort in the country, and meets the Social Director Noel Airman, who seems incredibly mature and arty and glamourous as he goes about producing the theatre shows and entertainment for the resort.
The rest of the film involves Marjorie, who is passionately in love with Noel, trying to convert him into the sort of respectable husband-to-be that her parents will approve of. For a young girl, she is incredibly mature and persistant about this! The smitten Noel does try. He gets a job at an advertising agency, but cannot bear wearing a suit. Then he manages to get backing for his new musical, as a hit show at least provides both creativity and financial security. His internal struggle with his free spirit nature and his conflicting desire to have Marjorie is the most interesting part of the film. Marjorie's struggle to reconcile her own artistic ambitions with her desire for financial security in marriage would have been more interesting with a more spirited performance, but Natalie Woods is a little wooden in this role. Gene Kelly, however, though obviously not the "33 years old" his character claims to be, is very solid.
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Unlike the book which was set in the 30's, the film is reset to the post-war 50's and avoids the political implications of Hilter's rise to power on the Jewish Marjorie. The movie does, however, maintain all the futility of her search for stardom and her tumultuous love affair with Noel Airman. My only criticism of the movie might have been that the ending was completely changed. However, after feeling so sad at the realistic ending of the novel, I finished watching the video smiling at its happier conclusion.
Gene Kelly is unquestionably an actor, but his one dance number and his beautiful singing of "A Very Precious Love" lit up the screen. Martin Milner shines as the friend besotted with love for Marjorie, Carolyn Jones is wonderful as her outspoken friend, and Ed Wynn is charming as the uncle, particularly in a campy scene dressed as a bullfighter. Watch also for 60's heartthrob Edd "Kookie" Byrnes as one of Marjorie's first boyfriends.
If you've never read the novel, you will still be enchanted with this classic love story. If you have read the novel, you will be mesmerized as Wouk's characters come to life.
Gene Kelly's performance was truly breathtaking. Many film critics have dismissed Gene Kelly's acting abilities, labeling him a song and dance man and incapable of fine acting. They have obviously not seen this film. Gene Kelly was magnificent as Noel Airman. His portrayal was not only sensitive, moving, but full of understanding of the character played.
The ending of Marjorie Morningstar is poignant, tinged with sadness. I recommend this film to all, especially if you are a Gene Kelly fan and want to see just how good he can act, minus the tap shoes.
I bought this DVD brand-new, and there are not any scratches on the playing surface (or either surface) at all. All of the picture problems are inherent in the master that was used to make the DVD.
The picture-quality of the DVD is slightly weak for a DVD, better than VHS but not restored, not especially sharp. Even for a 1957 movie (and this is in color), among the lesser quality DVD transfers I've seen on over 1000 DVDs I've viewed. The DVD is clearly made from a master that is possibly not the sharpest master, and certainly is not the studio's #1 master. There's at least one major cut-off and then jump in the picture, and in several other spots, picture and sound defects occur. The picture is slightly soft-focus throughout, and grainy. Sharp enough, barely, to qualify as DVD quality, apart from the above-mentioned defects.
Obviously, the very best studio master reels for this film, even copies sent to TV networks, are gone. Or someone was too lazy to find them.
This DVD is plenty viewable, certainly, but otherwise is barely of DVD quality. Previously (before editing this review), I had called it "not even solid VHS quality," and that was simply too harsh and not true. It merely is not quite as sharp as DVDs of other films from that period, plus contains the aforementioned defects. But if you like this movie, get this DVD, it is the best presentation yet.