Herman Wouk wrote a very Jewish novel, and the producers felt that it just might have been too ethnic for the general public, so they cast Irish-as-Paddy's-Pig Kelly in the male lead and Russian-French Wood as the heroine. Danny Kaye was originally penciled in to play the role but
declined, so Kelly got the nod. There was a lot of flack from the studio and writer Freeman almost took his name off the credits but changed his mind at the last minute. Wood changes her name from Morgenstern to Morningstar, which signals her desire to bury her cultural background. At the bar
mitzvah of her brother, Best, she questions the stern religious rule of her father, Sloane, and mother, Trevor. When they will not hear of any rebellion, she confides in her uncle, Wynn, an eccentric old geezer with a winsome charm. Wood scores as Juliet in her Hunter College show, then travels to
upstate New York, where she has taken a job as drama counselor at a camp. With best pal, Jones, they visit South Wind, a resort complex not unlike the famed Tamamint, where many stars first got their breaks under camp director Max Liebman. Wood meets Kelly, a big fish in that little pond. Kelly is
the actor, director, singer, and choreographer of the South Wind shows. He dazzles her so much that she is hardly aware his aide, Milner, is smitten by her. Kelly likes Wood, though there is no chance for any lasting relationship because he is too busy being the idol of many other women. Sloane
and Trevor come upstate and meet Kelly and make it clear to Wood that they do not approve of her cavorting with an older man who has no business prospects other than the unstable entertainment world. Wynn accompanies them and does a comic turn as a matador for the guests, then has a fatal heart
attack. Wood is shattered, then decides to end the affair with Kelly, who understands and is relieved. Her legacy from the liaison is the name that he has chosen for her, Morningstar, just as he had changed his name from Ehreman to Airman.
Wood returns to Hunter College after the summer, and her parents are thrilled when it appears that she will marry Balsam, a doctor. Kelly calls and tells her that he is now working at a respectable job at an advertising agency; he tells her he took it because he knew her parents wanted him to give
up show business if they were to continue their affair. This sacrifice on Kelly's part makes Wood love him even more than she did before. Milner has written a hit play, and Kelly and Wood attend the show. Kelly is consumed by jealousy over the success of his former flunky and he vanishes until
Wood finds him in the room of a flaxen floozy in Greenwich Village. She whacks him across his face and exits. Jones is now engaged to producer White, and when Kelly and Wood meet at the White-Jones wedding, Kelly attempts to salve matters, says he is contrite and that he is hard at work on a new
revue. Wood cannot turn her back on Kelly and persuades White to produce Kelly's show. In the interim, Sloane and Trevor are now resigned that they cannot talk Wood out of Kelly's grasp, so they shrug and give their OK to the duo. Kelly's show bombs and he vanishes again. This time to London,
where Milner explains to Wood that Kelly does not want to be found. Kelly is soon back at the scene of his greatest triumphs, South Wind. Wood travels there and sees Kelly is in his element, surrounded by a battalion of pretty young girls. She finally understands Kelly's need to be adored, but not
intimately touched. Wood goes off with Milner, who has been waiting for her since the first reel.
The picture was about as Jewish as SEVEN SAMURAI and spent most of its time dwelling on show business, which was hardly Wouk's intent in the massive novel. Kelly was supposed to be a second-rate musical talent but could not resist giving it his all, and when he danced and sang the Oscar-nominated
tune "A Very Special Love," it worked against the theory that he was not a good enough performer to make it in the real world. Sloane and Trevor are excellent as the parents and manage to convey an ethnic quality without ever crossing into kvetchiness and burlesque. Kelly was 46 and Wood was just
20 when they made this picture.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Herman Wouk wrote a very Jewish novel, and the producers felt that it just might have been too ethnic for the general public, so they cast Irish-as-Paddy's-Pig Kelly in the male lead and Russian-French Wood as the heroine. Danny Kaye was originally pencile… (more)