When a naive young actress is chosen to star in a biopic of film goddess Lylah Clare, who died under mysterious circumstances on her wedding night, she becomes consumed by the identity of the dead star.
Film Comment - 01/01/2012
"[P]leasure-rich....It's Novak's tour de force vocalisms -- roar of a jungle cat, purr of a Prussian tank -- that make the film a feast for the ears..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
No one can touch Robert Aldrich when it comes to holding a mirror up to the self-absorbed self-deception of Hollywood. The director of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Big Knife turns the lens again to Tinseltown with this deliciously overheated mystery-melodrama. Kim Novak portrays an unknown chosen to star in a biopic of film goddess Lylah Clare, who died under mysterious circumstances on her wedding night. Two Best Actor Academy Award winners -- Peter Finch as Lylah's obsessed widower and Ernest Borgnine as a loutish mogul -- help stir a heady plot that reveals secrets, compulsions, perversions and murder as the naive young actress becomes consumed by the identity of the dead star.
Film star Lylah Clare is dead, but her legend lives on. Movie-producer Barney Sheean (Ernest Borgnine) hires Elsa Brinkmann (Kim Novak), the living image of the late Lylah, to star in a film based on Ms. Clare's life. Barney hires director Lewis Zarkan (Peter Finch), Lylah's former husband, to transform the talentless Elsa into a facsimile of the deceased screen queen. Elsa not only learns to imitate Lylah but, at crucial junctures, becomes the dead woman. While restaging the accident that killed Lylah, the obsessed Zarkan deliberately drives Elsa to her doom -- and in so doing reveals his complicity in the death of his wife. The film ends with Lylah's onetime housekeeper (Rosella Falk), gun in hand, lying in wait for Zarkan to return home while her TV blasts forth a grotesque (and possibly symbolic) dog-food commercial. A trash masterpiece, LEGEND OF LYLAH CLAIRE works so hard at vilifying the Old Hollywood (there's even a vicious Hedda Hopper caricature) that it's a wonder the actors could keep a straight face. The film was based on a 1962 DUPONT SHOW OF THE WEEK TV drama co-written by WILD IN THE STREETS creator Robert Thom.
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