Goddess, The (1958)

The Goddess (1958), directed by John Cromwell.

Scenes from the life of a troubled actress, inspired by the case of Marilyn Monroe, who was still alive at the time. Kim Stanley, last seen in Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) is not as glamorous as the original, but she can act (not that Monroe couldn't, but this is a different level).

Born poor during the Depression to an neglecting and flighty mother, Emily has a craving both for love and respectability. In high school, boys date her because of her supposed wrong side of the tracks easy virtue. And, in truth, she can't stand to be alone. When married she becomes a bad mother herself, repeating some of her own mother's lines.

She eventually gets to Hollywood and becomes a superstar after sleeping with the studio heads. We hear about nude photo sessions, nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts. She finds God for a while but it doesn't stick: her temporary faith is just loneliness. In the end she is a total mess, cared for by handlers.

There is a final hopeful moment: maybe the cycle will be broken with her own little girl.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky, structured like a stage play. It's meant to be serious drama as in serious theater. It would be more tragic if we cared about the character. We pity her, but that's not the same. It's hard to get close to characters who are peevish and ill-tempered, whatever their reasons.

We get a glimpse of young Patty Duke as Emily at age 8.

Sony Screen Classics DVD-R, available for rent from ClassicFlix.