review for Jeanne Eagels on AllMovie

Jeanne Eagels (1957)
by Craig Butler review

"All events in this photoplay are based on fact or fiction." So the viewer is told at the beginning of Jeanne Eagels, and that statement should serve as warning that what is ahead is going to be muddled and inconsistent. Hollywood has never been content with presenting the life stories of real people in a factual manner, and Jeanne is no exception, taking a few true-to-life elements and mixing them with the same standard showbiz clichés that have been seen time and again. Compounding problems is the fact that the screenplay doesn't compensate with anything resembling snappy dialogue or interestingly developed characters. Under the circumstances, no one could be expected to turn in a great performance, but even so, Kim Novak's performance is unforgivably dull and unimaginative. Her drunk scene is embarrassing, but at least it provides relief from the rest of her sleepwalking performance; it's simply inconceivable that the woman Novak presents could have the determination, guts, wiles, and talent to succeed in the manner the screenplay tells us Eagels did. Jeff Chandler is also bland, but there's some welcome fireworks from Agnes Moorehead and very good work from Virginia Grey.