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Movie Review: Marjorie Morningstar (1958)

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Marjorie Morningstar, directed by Irving Rapper, is a piece of cinematic romance from the late 1950s which has been forgotten, and after seeing it I don't believe it has been missed. I'm not saying that it's a particularly bad film; it's just really nothing special.

Natalie Wood stars as Marjorie Morgenstern, a young Jewish woman living with her family in Manhattan. She has been dating a boy named Sandy Lamm for some time, and he is in love with her and wishes to marry her. Marjorie's mother is quite fond of Sandy, whose parents own a department store. Class and business sense is something that is very important to Marjorie’s mother. Unfortunately Marjorie isn't in love with Sandy, or at least she doesn't think so, and their parents are planning a trip in which Sandy and Marjorie could be together all summer. Marjorie isn't too keen on the idea, and her friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones) offers to get her a job as dramatic counselor at a girls' summer camp.

Across the lake from the girls' camp is another camp, kind of a getaway for rich folks. At this camp they have plays and dances and other types of productions put on to entertain the guests. Marsha has been sneaking across the lake nightly and seeing a musician, and one night she is able to convince Marjorie to come along. It is on this night that Marjorie meets Noel Airman (Gene Kelly) who produces the camp's plays, and who will quickly become the love of her life.

After a tumultuous summer of love, Marjorie returns home, single, and finishes college. She is now dating a doctor (Martin Balsam) and pursuing a career as an actress. After returning home one evening, she is surprised to see Noel waiting for her. He has left his job at the camp, and is now working for an advertising agency; and he is still madly in love with Marjorie. Marjorie doesn't plan on anything to happen, but she cannot deny her feelings and the two of them immediately get involved again.

When an old friend, Wally (Martin Milner), shows up with a new hit Broadway show it really sends Noel off the deep end. He misses his life in show business, and is upset that he never accomplished anything like Wally did. He goes on a drinking binge that ends in an affair, and he calls it off with Marjorie.

Of course it's never really over between Marjorie and Noel; they love each other too much and have too much chemistry. After some period of time, they are back together and Noel is working on a musical of his own and the tumultuous relationship continues.

Everett Freeman's script, from the best-selling novel by Herman Wouk, is cheesy at some points, and the film never really challenges Wood or Kelly, and it offers neither of them an opportunity to be great. It's definitely watchable, and it'll get a few good chuckles out of you. If they're showing Marjorie Morningstar on TCM or something and you have nothing else going on, then by all means watch it; but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it unless you are an enormous Natalie Wood or Gene Kelly fan.

Grade: C

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