Wednesday, February 25, 2009

To Be Twenty

Star 8O ('83) is Bob Fosse's extraordinary film about the events leading up to the death of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten. She was the June, 1980, centerfold.

Dorothy was murdered by her husband/manager Paul Snider.

Her turn-ons, turn-offs, favorite musicians, and secret dreams are to be found on her "Playmate Data Sheet" (below), which, as is customary for Playboy, accompanied her June spread.

While working on the film They All Laughed ('81), with Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara, and the late John Ritter...

...Stratten began a relationship with Peter Bogdanovich, the film's director.

The real Dorothy Stratten with Peter Bogdanovich
in New York in 1981

Snider, already estranged from Stratten, exploded with rage when he confronted her with his knowledge of the relationship, raped her, blew her head off, then blew his own head off.

Mariel Hemingway, sister of the late Margaux 'Lipstick' Hemingway, plays Dorothy with just the right amount of innocence and emerging maturity, even though she isn't near as stunning as Stratten was.

Eric Roberts is simply amazing as Paul Snider, the psychotic, pimp-like charmer who saw Dorothy as his meal ticket to fame.

A role in the underrated Runaway Train quickly followed for him.

The Real Paul Snider with Dorothy

Galaxina ('80), from the director of The Incredible Melting Man ('77), was Dorothy's fourth feature film. It is not covered in Star 8O.

Star 8O focuses mostly on the shooting of Stratten's first starring feature, the '71 Autumn Born (called Wednesday's Child in the film), a below average, almost inept thriller.

Bogdanovich's character, known as Aram Nicholas in the film, and played with awkward reserve by Roger Rees, is directing Straten in an unidentified film in New York (actually They All Laughed), necessitating her being away from Snider while he remains in LA to spend her money, bang starlets, and grow his paranoia.

Interestingly, Snider does come across as a fairly switched-on guy in some respects, possessing the ability to remember the names of people he hasn't met in years and being able to immediately intuit whether someone likes him or not.

Cliff Robertson, who is a terrific as Hugh Heffner, sums Snider up with this: "He's got the personality of a pimp!"

The film, one of many great films produced by the The Ladd Company (Body Heat and The Right Stuff are others), did not do well commercially.

Perhaps it was just too dark and honest.

Generally, honesty doesn't go down well in any quarter, let alone Hollywood.

Certainly one of the most searing indictments of the film industry ever made, and an uncompromising depiction of the exploitation of the young.

Dorothy Stratten was only 20 when she died.

In '86, Peter Bogdanovich tied the knot with Dorothy Stratten's kid sister Louise.

She was also 20.

Dorothy Stratten with Louise


  1. Stunning and sorrowful.
    Although her smile's contour bothers me in the last picture.


  2. I remember the summer I turned twenty very well; it is indeed a time of "innocence and emerging maturity."

    Fortunately, most of us live to tell- or, in the name of discretion, not tell- the tale.

    Poor Dorothy.

  3. A great film about a tragic story.

    You are right about honesty not 'going down well', Phantom; don't forget 'honesty' is rough, jagged, oafish and clumsy. Truth seldom looks polished, and we as human beings are simply not used to it.

    It cannot be readily or easily inserted into any orifice, or assimilated into any process or procedure without varying degrees of trauma, quite regardless of the lip service it frequently receives.

    'The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth' they ask for in court.

    I beg your pardon?

    Let's start with a clear 'definition of the truth' and go from there, your worship...

    Contempt? Guilty.

    Truth? Let's see; cancer corrodes the flesh, rape steals the soul, meat is murder and murder irresitable. War is hell, but by God we love it more than we can express...

    Money talks, not only in Hollywood. And bullshit? It walks with a swagger like Jessica Rabbit, my friend...

    Thanks for your ode to Eric Roberts; less of a homoerotic love song than Mickey Rourke's at the Indi Spirit Awards, much more truthful.


    Just don't expect to make too many friends with the truth- unless of course you are building a brave new world on this site...

  4. Soiled -- her smile is concerning. Like tea leaves arranged funny at the bottom of a cup?

    anonymous -- much to tell, but not always an appropriate venue to tell it, perhaps?

    mandingo -- I've tried inserting truth into various orifices, but it keeps getting re-imagined.

    I don't know how to make friends. It happens by default.

    Not sure what world I'm building here. Just a place to bury the concept of Guilty Pleasures.

    How I despise that term.

    Why should one feel guilty about the things they love?

    Not me!

  5. In the Court of the Phantom King, you hereby find yourself 'Not Guilty'!!

    You are free to blog at will!!

  6. I really liked Dorothy. It's such a shame she might a tragic end at such a young age. I did really enjoy the film of Star 80.

  7. jervaise brooke hamsterApril 17, 2009 at 4:45 AM

    so dorothy only had 8 more years than heather.