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Marjorie Morningstar

Marjorie Morningstar

2.5 4
Director: Irving Rapper

Cast: Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Claire Trevor


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Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) is an 18-year-old, middle-class, Jewish girl from New York who wants nothing more than to be an actress, despite the hopes and wishes of her parents (Everett Sloane and Claire Trevor) that she graduate from college, marry, and settle down to have a family. At the urging of her more worldly friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones), she


Marjorie Morgenstern (Natalie Wood) is an 18-year-old, middle-class, Jewish girl from New York who wants nothing more than to be an actress, despite the hopes and wishes of her parents (Everett Sloane and Claire Trevor) that she graduate from college, marry, and settle down to have a family. At the urging of her more worldly friend Marsha Zelenko (Carolyn Jones), she takes a job at an upstate camp, and, one night when sneaking onto the grounds of a neighboring resort, meets and falls wildly in love with the entertainment director, Noel Airman (Gene Kelly). A Lothario with a gift of song as well as dance, Airman romances Marjorie and tries to teach her something of theater, suggesting that she change her name to Marjorie Morningstar, which she does. He intends to enjoy her company for the summer, until her aging uncle Samson (Ed Wynn), who is also working at the resort, tells him of the family's concerns for the girl. Noel and Marjorie end up linked romantically, despite their best efforts to stay away from each other. Marjorie gives up a potential romance with a slightly older, successful doctor (Martin Balsam) and resists the honest entreaties of Airman's assistant, Wally Wronken (Martin Milner), and tries to get Airman to straighten up and fly right; she can't get her own acting career off the ground, but she owns Airman's heart. Instead of biding his time at writing a musical that he's been working at for four years, and spending his summers working in the Catskills, Noel tries to work in the advertising world -- he also finds himself just as troubled by the stable family life and religious life that Marjorie comes from as he is attracted to her personally. He is also bitterly disturbed by the fact that his one-time assistant Wally Wronken is now a successful Broadway playwright, the darling of critics and audiences, with backers eager to sign checks to produce his work. Unable to pursue a life in business, or remain faithful to Marjorie, he reaches a crisis point from which only she can rescue him -- together they try to build a life and he tries to finish his long-gestating masterpiece, which proves a disaster when it gets to Broadway. Noel abandons Marjorie, and when she goes to find him, Wally warns her off, explaining that Noel has to return to a place where he can feel successful, like the Catskills resort where they met, where he can be the big fish in the tiny pond. Her marriage over and her girlish ideals behind her, she sees Noel back in his element, wowing young acting students with his skills, and finally turns to the one man who has loved her for precisely who she is all along, Wally.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Herman Wouk's novel Marjorie Morningstar was one of the biggest selling novels of the middle 20th century, and still sells enough in the 21st century to justify remaining in print. As a movie, however, it was a dubious proposition, owing to the fact that both its story and its characters are so steeped in -- and conflicted about -- the Jewish religion. The basic problem in adapting the book to the screen in 1957 was its Jewishness. Hollywood, as a movie mecca founded largely by businessmen who were Jewish, was notoriously reticent about utilizing plots focusing too closely on Jewish subject matter, or even allowing films to dwell too closely on identifiably Jewish characters. In a sense, this was simply good business, as well as a lingering reaction to the anti-Semitism that many of the moguls had experienced in the past -- the business feared calling attention to itself as an industry founded by Jews, and the moguls feared calling attention to their own Jewishness. Additionally, it was questionable whether movie audiences in 1958 would respond to the plot's intense questions about the Jewish faith and its role in modern life, in sufficient numbers to justify the making of a multimillion-dollar production. The solution came from the sheer size of the book -- as there was no hope of transposing all of Wouk's 565-page novel to the screen anyway, the producers made sure to tone down and excise most of its focus on religion and shifted the story's focus in the screenplay to Marjorie's attempts at balancing her romantic life and career aspirations. Natalie Wood, who was cast after dozens of other actresses had tried for the part, was very good as the naïve, vulnerable Marjorie. She not only looked right (although one suspects that Susan Kohner could have done just as good a job), but the timing of the production was perfect to get the most from her work -- Marjorie Morningstar's shooting coincided with Wood's engagement and first marriage to Robert Wagner, and, perhaps with this going on in her personal life, she ended up being excellent in her romantic scenes. The casting of the part of Noel Airman (aka Ehrman), her unfortunate choice of a man to be attracted to, was far more problematic. The part itself is a difficult one, as the character is a kind of semi-talented cad, tragic in his way but hardly a hero; for years there was a rumor (denied by the author) that Wouk had based the character of Noel Airman on Robert Paul Smith, a classmate of his from college who is best remembered as the co-author of The Tender Trap. The part was actually written with Danny Kaye -- then one of the biggest stars in Hollywood -- in mind, but Kaye turned it down, possibly thinking that some details in the character's background were too close to his own. Instead, the producers cast against type by getting Gene Kelly for the role -- he is good in the early part of the movie, and in all of the romantic scenes (and it is easier to visualize Kelly than Kaye as a Catskills-based Romeo, charming young would-be actresses in a series of summer romances); but he fails utterly in his penultimate scene, in which he berates the men who are proposing to finance his show, for their questioning of his work. The rest of the cast, however, is ideal -- Carolyn Jones is superb as Marjorie's more worldly friend Marsha; Everett Sloane and Claire Trevor shine as her parents, with Trevor deserving of at least an Oscar nomination for her work as Marjorie's bitchy, quietly manipulative mother, Rose; Martin Milner is also good, in one of a group of solid big-screen roles from this period, as Marjorie's largely unrequited lover, Wally; and Ed Wynn cast to perfection as her loving, aging uncle Samson. The film makes a few errors, such as the extended toreador sequence for Wynn's character, which runs too long and isn't necessary to the plot, but overall Marjorie Morningstar came out as well as could be expected, given the tenor of the times in which it was made and Kelly's limitations in his role. The score, written by Max Steiner, and the songs by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, were also enjoyable and memorable. The movie has only suffered since its original release due to the fact that, although it was made by and at Warner Bros. (and benefited from the work of that studio's top production staff, including Harry Stradling's cinematography and Ray Heindorf's conducting), was owned by producer Milton Sperling, and has not been treated as well in the hands of the various distributors into whose hands it has fallen as one would wish. Recent editions on videotape, laserdisc, and DVD show lots of flaws in the master materials that are not evident in films from the same era that Warner still owns. Even so, seen today, beyond the interesting story and late '50s period detail, the location shooting in New York City and upstate is delightful to watch today, and sharp-eyed viewers will also spot such subsequently familiar faces as Ed "Kookie" Byrnes, Shelley Fabares, and Alan Reed in small roles.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Republic Pictures
Region Code:

Special Features

Full-screen version; Mono audio; Interactive menus; Digitally mastered; Scene access; Information

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Gene Kelly Noel Airman
Natalie Wood Marjorie Morgenstern
Claire Trevor Rose Morgenstern
Everett Sloane Arnold Morgenstern
Martin Milner Sandy
Ed Wynn Uncle Samson
Carolyn Jones Marsha Zelenko
George Tobias Greech
Martin Balsam Dr. David Harris
Jesse White Lou Michaelson
Edward Byrnes Sandy Lamm
Paul Picerni Philip Berman
Alan Reed Puddles Podell
Howard Bert Seth
Leslie E. Bradley Blair
Peter Brown Alec
Walter Clinton Mr. Zelenko
Patricia Denise Karen
Lester Dorr Elevator Operator
Shelley Fabares Seth's Girl Friend
Eddie Foster Carlos
Rad Fulton Romeo
Gail Ganley Wally's Girl Friend
Elizabeth Harrower Miss Kimble
Ruta Lee Imogene
Fred Rapport Nate
Guy Raymond Mr. Klabber
Maida Severn Tonia Zelenko
Harry Seymour Frank
Reginald Sheffield Clerk
Carl Sklover Leon Lamm
Pierre Watkin Civil Official
Jean Vachon Mary Lamm
Fay Nuell Helen Harris

Technical Credits
Irving Rapper Director
Jack Baker Choreography
Malcolm C. Bert Art Director
Folmar Blangsted Editor
Sammy Fain Score Composer
Everett Freeman Screenwriter
Ray Heindorf Musical Direction/Supervision
Howard Shoup Costumes/Costume Designer
Milton Sperling Producer
Max Steiner Score Composer
Harry Stradling Cinematographer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
0. Scene Index
1. Opening Credits [1:29]
2. Uncle Sampson [3:42]
3. Marjorie [4:21]
4. The Proposal [6:50]
5. Camp Tamarack [5:40]
6. Marjorie Meets Noel Airman [8:42]
7. Uncle Sampson's New Job [4:52]
8. Getting Into Trouble [3:47]
9. The Waiter Interferes [7:46]
10. The Inquisition [6:49]
11. Colored Lanterns [7:58]
12. Come Back, Uncle Sampson [4:25]
13. An Old Friend [7:24]
14. Wally Has a Hit [8:46]
15. Imogene [6:16]
16. A Favor [5:10]
17. Marsha's Maidenly Hysterics [4:57]
18. Together Again [3:49]
19. "The Show Won't Fail" [3:56]
20. Someone to Love [4:51]
21. End Credits/Marjorie Grows Up [10:42]


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Marjorie Morningstar 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
DeanieLoomis More than 1 year ago
"Marjorie Morningstar" (1958) is an adaptation of the Herman Wouk novel of the same name. I first saw the film on TV when I was an impressionable adolescent and loved it. Later, I read the novel, and having seen the film again as an adult, I've had to readjust my estimation a bit. While it's a creditable transfer of novel to screen--at least by the standards of the 1950s--it has some flaws that are somewhat glaring. The first is the depiction of New York upper-middle-class Jewish culture that veers from being spot-on to wildly overwrought. Then there is Ed Wynn's portrayal of Uncle Samson, especially during a segment in which he performs some cornball vaudeville-type routine at a Catskills resort. He's supposedly the hit of the evening's entertainment, but the bit is painfully unfunny and a temporary drag on the emotional and dramatic tensions central to the film: the relationship between the nice middle-class young woman seeking artistic fulfillment and romance, Marjorie (Natalie Wood), and the older, worldly but emotionally caddish Noel Airman (Gene Kelly). Wood is touching and luminous, but Kelly is beyond superb. One can understand his character's angst even as he is breaking Marjorie's heart--and his own. Based on Kelly's performance here, I can only guess how spectacular he must have been playing the title role in the original 1941 Broadway production of Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey."
senecaKD More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book as a teen-ager but somehow never saw the movie adaptation until recently. I knew it would be dated and probably not stand up over time. I was right but I did enjoy it anyway. It brought me back to a time when I was more impressionable and idealistic, a time when, like Marjorie, I had youthful and fanciful ideas about life and romance. It's good to reminisce.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
avery beautful movie i was 16 years old when i first seen marjorie morning star it was the first time iever seen natalie wood she was so beautful the movie was good and the music was so beautful in 1990 i bought the movie on vhs 20 years latter iam going to buy it on dvd and hopeing it comes out on blue ray this movie is very hard to get around here in kw area they dont even havent for rent i was very lucky to find one place in waterloo and they order it for me on dvd they also said its going to be not avalible to much longer and thats very sad natalie wood put her heart and soul in this movie and who has ever read the book willlove the movie out of all the movies i have seen over the years marjorie morning star is one best movies ever made for those of you who love natalie wood young and old this movie is time less natalie wood and gene kelly are so good and the same for the rest of the cast this movie is one of those movies you could watch over and over i do recomend this movie to every one marjorie morning star for ever david hesch kitchener ontario canada
Guest More than 1 year ago
A wonderful coming of age story poorly adapted to the screen, Marjorie Morningstar suffers from terrible casting (45-year-old Gene Kelly claiming to be a dashing, 33-year-old ne'er-do-well), a truncated storyline (23 years collapsed into a few summers) and one truly embarassing dance sequence. Even the above 'professional' review is off--at no time during the movie are Marjorie and Noel married--but perhaps the reviewer fell asleep. Who could blame him? Do yourself a favor and read the book instead.