Jeanne Eagels (film)

Jeanne Eagels (also titled The Jeanne Eagels Story) is a 1957 American biographical film loosely based on the life of stage star Jeanne Eagels. Distributed by Columbia Pictures, the film was produced and directed by George Sidney from a screenplay by John Fante, Daniel Fuchs and Sonya Levien, based on a story by Fuchs.[2][3]

Jeanne Eagels
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Sidney
Produced byGeorge Sidney
Screenplay byJohn Fante
Daniel Fuchs
Sonya Levien
Story byDaniel Fuchs
StarringKim Novak
Jeff Chandler
Charles Drake
Agnes Moorehead
Larry Gates
Virginia Grey
Gene Lockhart
Murray Hamilton
Music byMischa Bakaleinikoff
George Duning
Gil Grau
Howard Jackson
CinematographyRobert H. Planck
Edited byViola Lawrence
Jerome Thoms
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • August 2, 1957 (1957-08-02) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3.1 million (US rentals)[1]

The film stars Kim Novak in the title role. Jeff Chandler, Charles Drake, Agnes Moorehead, Larry Gates, Virginia Grey, Gene Lockhart and Murray Hamilton co-star.

Many aspects of Eagels' real life were omitted or largely fictionalized. Eagels' family later sued Columbia Pictures over the way Eagels was depicted in the film.[4]


Jeanne Eagels is a Kansas City waitress. After losing a carnival's beauty contest, she asks carny owner Sal Satori for a job. Her dancing in a skimpy costume is accused of being obscene. Sal decides to join his brother in New York and invites Jeanne to join them in an amusement park at Coney Island.

Taking acting lessons instead, the ambitious Jeanne becomes the understudy in a Broadway show and a star when she gets a chance to play the part. A once successful actress named Elsie Desmond wants to make a comeback in a new play, but Jeanne betrays her and takes the play for herself, willing to do anything to get ahead. Elsie denounces her in the theater before the first performance, then commits suicide. Sal is disgusted by Jeanne's behavior as well. She accepts a proposal from a ne'er-do-well named John Donahue, but both descend into alcoholism. Jeanne misses performances and causes fellow actors to lose out on paychecks.

Her situation deteriorates further when she's required to pay alimony to John after a divorce. A new play fails because Jeanne, drunk and on pills, collapses on stage. The actors' guild suspends her for 18 months. Unable to work, she returns to Sal's amusement park and is offered a job dancing. Another performer sexually assaults her in a dressing room. Jeanne, her life in ruins, continues to spiral downward and hallucinate. While trying to make it to a stage one night, she collapses on the staircase and dies.


Kim NovakJeanne Eagels
Jeff ChandlerSal Satori
Agnes MooreheadNellie Neilson
Charles DrakeJohn Donahue
Larry GatesAl Brooks
Virginia GreyElsie Desmond
Gene LockhartEquity Board President
Joe De SantisFrank Satori
Murray HamiltonChick O'Hara


The film was long planned as a vehicle for Kim Novak.[5] Jeff Chandler had just finished a long term exclusive contract with Universal and played the male lead.[6]

Novak's dress caught on fire during filming and Chandler had to put it out.[7]


DVD release

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released Jeanne Eagels on August 3, 2010, as part of its "Kim Novak Collection." The box set also includes the films Picnic (1956); Bell, Book and Candle (1958); Middle of the Night (1959); and Pal Joey (1957).[8]

See also


  1. "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
  2. Variety film review; July 24, 1957, page 6.
  3. Harrison's Reports film review; July 20, 1957, page 114.
  4. Erickson, Hal. "Jeanne Eagels (1957)". Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  5. A Town Called Hollywood: Kim Novak 'Merges' With Spirit of Jeanne Eagels Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Jan 1957: E2.
  6. Movie to Team McCrea and Mark Stevens Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, Ill] 08 Dec 1956: 18.
  7. Kim Novak Escapes As Dress Catches Fire The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) [Washington, D.C] 15 Feb 1957: A24.
  8. Ball, Chris (August 4, 2010). "'Kim Novak Collection' offers five of her best films". Retrieved January 8, 2013.

Further reading

  • Monder, Eric (1994). George Sidney:a Bio-Bibliography. Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313284571.
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