This film stars Gene Kelly in a rare dramatic role, and Natalie Wood, who at the time was a rising star. Natalie plays Marjorie Morgenstern (Morningstar is her ‘stage name’ which she uses later on in the film), a young and somewhat naive young woman, who falls in love with Noel Airman (Kelly), a man wo works at a summer camp every year, writing and directing the stage play, but who has dreams of seeing his own show on Broadway. Although her love is returned, Noel first refuses to make any sort of commitment to Marjorie, because she is just one of many women who fall for him every summer. He does subsequently realise his own feelings for her, but while her star is on the rise, his career is stagnant; he is unable to commit to anything, not just relationships, and their love causes pain and anguish to both of them.
It’s unusual to see Gene Kelly playing against type here. Noel was not an altogether sympathetic character, but I did recognise bits of him – we all know people who are lots of fun to be around, but don’t have the self-discipline to see anything through. (It should be noted that while I have posted a clip from the film which shows Kelly dancing, this movie is not a musical.) Anyway, Kelly does a good job in this role – I have always loved to see his magic feet, but film such as this show that he had a talent for serious acting too.
Natalie Wood is just beautiful as Marjorie – it’s hardly surprising that two men fall deeply in love with her in this film! She plays the part really well too, and I liked the character a lot. The development from an 18 year old girl into a confident young woman was believeable. Her parents, played by the always excellent Claire Trevor and Everett Sloane, were also great. Indeed, Sloane had one of the most touching scenes in the film as he stares out of the window looking at people skating in Central Park, and remembers his youth.
It’s quite a tearjerker this one – I found myself crying a couple of times during the film – not so much at the pain of the relationship between the two lead characters, but more because the ending was so inevitable (but I’m not giving it away). It’s a film I’d definitely like to see again, and it’s well worth watching, especially if you are a fan of either of the two main characters.
Year of release: 1958
Director: Irving Rapper
Producer: Milton Sperling
Writers: Herman Wouk (book), Everett Freeman
Main cast: Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Claire Trevor, Everett Sloane, Martin Milner, Carolyn Jones, Ed Wynn