"Come on, Oscar--let's you and me get drunk." This caustic Bette Davis line is not aimed at a co-star but at the Academy Award itself, which down-on-her-luck actress Margaret Elliot cradles bitterly at the beginning of an inebriated evening. As you can guess, Davis is at full-throttle in his ripe melodrama, which came a couple of years after All About Eve
and serves as a kind of less-classy companion piece to that classic. As the movie begins, Margaret has lost her career and family because of her own demanding nature. Rescued by a roughhewn boatbuilder (Sterling Hayden) she once befriended, she confronts what's most important--being a star, or being a (ahem) woman.
The rickety script and cut-rate production values betray The Star as a product of Davis's post-Warners wanderings. It does have some sunny location shots of San Pedro, plus a young Natalie Wood before she broke out of child-star roles. But the biggest draw, other than Davis, is the Hollywood behind-the-scenes juice, and the guessing game of how close the material was to Davis's own career (rumor has it the character, who wants to glamorize herself for a supporting part as a slatternly housemaid, was based more on Joan Crawford). It ain't art, but it's an artifact of a different era, skipping between backstage expose and camp. --Robert Horton