Jeanne Eagels (1957)

Jeanne Eagels was a star of stage and screen during the early part of the 20th century. She appeared on Broadway for many years, and starred in several silent films. Yet her behaviour was erratic and her habit of cancelling stage appearances led to her being banned by Actors Equity for eighteen months.  She returned to films, making a successful transition to sound in The Letter, for which she was considered for the 1928 Best Actress Oscar. She would not live to see the Awards Ceremony, dying of a suspected heroin overdose at the age of 39. It is a life that would make for a fascinating biopic. This ain’t it!

 

Instead we get a morality play filmed in the style of a Twilight Zone episode. It even opens in a noisy carnival, which could explain why the cast scream at each other. Yet Kim Novak’s high-decibel delivery continues throughout the entire movie, be it to register drunkenness, anger or joy. The one time she whispers is to tell an attacker to get out of her dressing room. She also moves in an odd fashion, so much so that her death throes are indistinguishable from her performance in earlier scenes. 

 

Novak would go on to play fictional movie stars in The Legend of Lylah Clare and Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack'd.  Despite being based on an actual person, Jeanne Eagels is just as fanciful.  

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Jeanne Eagels did not start her career performing in a carnival.

 

There is no record of Jeanne Eagels stealing the play “Rain” from another actress, much less this leading to that actress’s suicide.

 

The real-life inspiration for fictional character Sal Satori is Eagels first husband, Maurice Dubinsky.

 

The real-life inspiration for fictional character John Donahue is Eagels second husband, Edward Coy.

 

Majority of plays and movies depicted in this biopic are fictitious.

 

Paramount did not produce any of Eagels silent movies, only her 'talkies'.

Features two scene recreations of movies Jeanne Eagels never made. Biopic ends with a movie called Forever Young featuring a song written seven years after Eagels died. The other scene is apparently from a movie directed by Frank Borzage and co-starring John Gilbert. Frank Borzage never directed Eagels in a movie, and the one film in which she co-starred with Gilbert, Man, Woman and Sin, was not set in America’s South.

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