Good production values and interesting performances from Chandler and Novak give this unusual film biography more value than the hackneyed script originally provided. The story, reportedly based on the life of ill-fated Broadway actress Jeanne Eagels, opens with a contradictory statement:
"All events in this photoplay are based on fact and fiction." For the rest of the film, the producers couldn't seem to make up their minds which way to take the script. And Novak, as Eagels, seems to go both ways, too, sometimes confused by her split-personality character. She begins the film as a
sensuous cooch dancer, shimmying and shaking for carnival owner Chandler, who is perfectly happy with what he's got and goes out of his way to prevent Novak from pursuing a Broadway career. She persists, however, and, after several encounters with male promoters, winds up starring in Somerset
Maugham's "Rain," for which the real Jeanne Eagels became famous. She then begins a slow decline into booze and, it is implied, prostitution. Chandler remains devoted to Novak, but he cannot bring himself to help her in her time of need. That he's just plain jealous of her success is also evident,
and when she dies tragically, all Chandler can do is go to a theater to see his now-dead girl friend in a movie singing "I'll Take Romance" (dubbed by Eileen Wilson).
Novak's passive performance is at odds with Eagels' desperate desire to become a star (she uses her acting coach, Moorehead, and double-crosses an aging actress, Grey, to land the part in "Rain"). Lovely to look at but lightweight in the acting department, Novak became incensed when she learned
that Chandler was getting $20,000 for his role and she only $13,000. After finishing the picture, Novak fired her agent, and the William Morris office took over her career. When Novak refused to report to her next film, Columbia's Harry Cohn suspended her, then gave a rare press interview
complaining about stars getting out of control. Novak stayed out on suspension, supported by her agency, which continued to pay her salary until Cohn finally capitulated and presented the star with a new contract. Columbia had other problems with JEANNE EAGELS; Elaine Eagels Nicklas sued the
studio for $950,000, claiming the film showed her relative as a "dissolute and immoral person." The suit was later settled out of court.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Good production values and interesting performances from Chandler and Novak give this unusual film biography more value than the hackneyed script originally provided. The story, reportedly based on the life of ill-fated Broadway actress Jeanne Eagels, open… (more)