Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) is barely out of high school, but dreaming of becoming an actress. Her loving, but rather conservative parents (Everett Sloan and Claire Trevor) just want her to go to college, and then marry a nice a man. Though Marjorie’s boyfriend Sandy would like to get married, Marjorie goes off for the summer with her best friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones, The Addams Family) for a job as a young girl’s dramatic counselor at Camp Tamarack.
It might seem trite today, but in 1950’s America it was rare to see a young girl rebel against expectations; to summer job, when a nice boy wanted to marry you. At camp, Marjorie and her friend sneak across the lake regularly to an adult resort called South Wind, where Marjorie gets involved with show director Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) and his assistant, writer Wally Wronkin (Martin Milner). Noel immediately charms her with his talent in all aspects of the theater–he can write, sing, and dance, on top of everything else. Quickly renaming her Marjorie Morningstar, Noel offers the smitten girl several parts in his current production, and it’s clear the two are falling in love. However, Noel’s nervous ambition and low self-esteem can make him seem cruel at times. Worse, his freethinking ways don’t mesh with Marjorie’s family. Noel sends Marjorie away, claiming to be no good for her.
Four years later with college degree in hand, Marjorie is dating the amiable Dr. David Harris (Martin Balsam, Eight Days in May) when she runs into Noel, now working in advertising. But when his old friend Wally has some success as a playwright, Noel falls into a familiar funk. Encouraged to write his own show, Noel runs off to Europe when it’s a failure. Still smitten, Marjorie chases after him. Though Marjorie’s finds Noel in London, she decides to turn her attention to Wally, who has turned up in London to meet her. Thank goodness! To watch an otherwise level-headed young woman repeatedly brush aside Wally (among others), for the boorish Noel becomes a painful experience.
Aside from that, Marjorie Morningstar has some inherent weaknesses. When we first meet Noel producing South Windsor very amateur entertainment, he dances beautifully, directs with panache, and has personality to spare (not unlike Gene Kelly himself), so really, how could his play be such a dismal failure? Watching, I couldn’t help but think Gene was playing a vacation of himself, but just five years removed from Singin’ in the Rain, wouldn’t experience the level of failure depicted here. Also, not helping Kelly’s cause was director Irving Rapper (Now, Voyager), let him overplay his character, particularly moments involving emotional outbursts, throughout the film. The Jewish culture, which plays such an important part in the novel, has been largely removed from the film. It should also be noted that the 46-year old Kelly looks visibly awkward during love scenes with 20-year old Natalie Wood. While both Gene Kelly and Natalie Wood are both fine actors, their work in Marjorie Morningstar is not among their best.
Presented in the 1.85.1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is being billed as, “newly mastered from a 4K scan.” It looks wonderful, preserving the “WarnerColor” look of the film. Summer camp greenery is appealing, and a range of hues are handled very nicely. Skin tones appear realistic throughout. Detail allows for strong textured fabrics, and some facial particulars, such as a wrinkle. Delineation is solid. A fine grain gives the proceedings a filmic appearance. While speckling is a constant, it doesn’t mar the overall viewing experience.
The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix offers clear, clean, and concise dialogue exchanges throughout, handling any voice increases very well. Music cues are equally appealing, with stage performances offering theatrical punch. The score is delivered with effective resonance, while atmospherics are blunt, but effective.
English SDH subtitles are included.
There are no extras available.
Movie title: Marjorie Morningstar (1958)