Cast & Crew
Betty Lou Holland
In 1930, recently widowed Loraine Faulkner boards a bus with her five-year-old daughter Emily Ann and travels to her brother George's house in a provincial Maryland town. There, after renouncing her marriage, her late husband and her little daughter, the self-pitying Loraine whines that she is too attractive and young to be burdened with a child and asks George and his wife Alice Marie to take the little girl. George convinces his sister to stay and rear her child in their shanty town shack. Neglected by her indifferent mother, Emily Ann is a lonely little girl, her only friend a stray cat. Twelve years later, Emily Ann, now a teenager, dreams of finding acceptance and respectability by becoming a movie star. Desperate for attention, Emily uses her sexual allure to win dates. When her latest suitor roughly embraces her, she passively accepts his sexual advances while defiantly declaring that she is going to Hollywood someday. One night, while out with some visiting soldiers, Emily Ann and her escorts find a drunken soldier passed out in the street. When the drunk is identified as John Tower, the son of a silent movie star, Emily Ann, intoxicated by her brush with fame, accompanies the soldiers as they carry the drunk back to his hotel room and insists on staying there until he awakens. The next morning, John, still reeling from the effects of alcohol, morosely rambles about his meaningless life and estrangement from his famous, insensitive father. The two begin dating, but when Emily Ann gushes that she wants to marry John and take care of him, John warns her that he destroys everything that means anything to him. Nevertheless, the couple are married, and soon after, John stumbles into the house drunk, announcing that he is being sent into combat and hopes to be killed. After John's departure, Emily Ann gives birth to a daughter, but stills dreams of being a movie star. Unable to quiet the squalling infant one day, Emily Ann becomes hysterical and tells her mother that she does not want the baby, the same words uttered by her own mother years earlier. Five years later, Emily Ann, who has changed her name to Rita Shaw, is a starlet in Hollywood. When Dutch Seymour, a boxing champion who has found his life pointless since retiring from the ring, proposes to Emily Ann, she accepts because their union would give her career a boost. After they are married, Dutch suggests moving back to his hometown of St. Louis, where he could join the family business. Although Emily Ann at first agrees, she becomes overwrought at dinner, and still craving fame and recognition, insists on staying in Hollywood to pursue her career. Gradually, the couple becomes estranged, and as Dutch flounders aimlessly, Emily Ann's overt sexuality wins her some small acting parts and attracts the attention of director Lester Brackman and studio vice president R. M. Lucas. After returning home from a party on the set one night, Emily Ann passionately reaches for Dutch and agrees to go St. Louis with him. The next morning, however, she changes her mind and meets with Brackman and Lucas. While leering at Emily Ann, Lucas offers her a contract, then invites her to his house that night to "discuss the terms." Several years later, Emily Ann, now a bona fide movie star, suffers a nervous breakdown and is visited by her mother, who has become a devout Seventh Day Adventist. Emily Ann proudly introduces her mother to her "best friends," producer Joe Woolsy and his wife Sally, but after Emily Ann steps out of the room, Joe informs Mrs. Faulkner that he barely knows her daughter and advises putting Emily Ann under psychiatric care. Emily Ann, terrified of being alone in her big, empty house, chatters nervously to her mother about her wealth and fame. Unimpressed, her mother, a stern woman of few words, responds with some religious homilies and advises her to open her heart to the Lord. After desperately embracing her mother, Emily Ann proclaims that she has "received the spirit." A few days later, Emily Ann, her long blonde hair now restrained in a prim bun, tells Joe that she has found God and is ready to return to work. Two months later, Loraine decides to return home, prompting Emily Ann to revert to her neurotic, unstable life. Several years later, Emily Ann returns home to attend her mother's funeral and is accompanied by Miss Hayward, who acts as her nurse and secretary. At the cemetery, Emily Ann sees John standing with their daughter, whom he has reared. After staring at the girl, Emily Ann walks to her mother's grave and drunkenly shrieks that she wants to die. Later, John visits Emily Ann at her mother's house and is met by Miss Hayward, who refuses to let him see her. When John explains that he has come to take Emily Ann to meet their daughter, the one person who brought happiness into his life, Miss Hayward relents and allows John to go upstairs to Emily Ann's bedroom. Upon seeing John, Emily Ann confides that her life is empty despite her achievements. When John tells her that their daughter has taught him what love is and can give Emily Ann a reason to live, Emily Ann becomes hysterical. Miss Hayward rushes into the room, and after retrieving a bottle of sleeping pills that Emily Ann has hidden under her mattress, tells him that a psychiatrist has diagnosed Emily Ann's case as hopeless, but reassures John that she will take good care of her. After saying goodbye, John runs to meet his daughter and the two walk off, arm and arm.
Betty Lou Holland
Joyce Van Patten
Charles H. Mcguire
Arthur J. Ornitz
Frank L. Thompson
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Goddess (1958) - The Goddess
Written by Paddy Chayefsky, the story is divided into three acts, introduced with their own titles--"Portrait of a Young Girl," "Portrait of a Young Woman," and "Portrait of a Goddess." The heroine is Emily Ann Faulkner, played in the first act by nine-year-old Patty Duke, still four years away from The Miracle Worker (1962) and her Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress. Emily's mother (Betty Lou Holland) is a single mom from the South, so determined to enjoy her singleness that she abandons her little girl. In one of the movie's many painful scenes, Emily hears her mother call her nothing but an unwelcome burden, and it's clear she'll be scarred by this forever.
In the second act, Emily is a teenage flibbertigibbet like her mother was, earning a reputation for "doing things" with boys because she fears being unpopular if she doesn't. She ends up marrying a young man (Steven Hill) who's at least as unstable as she is, and they break up after having a baby. In one of the movie's less convincing moments, Emily shrieks with frustration about motherhood in exactly the same words her mother used years ago. Leaving her daughter and divorcing her husband, she heads for the West Coast to pursue her dreams of stardom.
In the third act she achieves those dreams, changing her name to Rita Shawn and learning to play by Hollywood's rules even when they're sleazy and cynical. She soon discovers that fame and fortune aren't all they're cracked up to be. Neither is marriage to a celebrity (Lloyd Bridges) who loves her without being able to understand her. Alcoholic and miserable, she has a mental breakdown on a movie set, and as she recuperates-with help from her mother, now a prissy church-going puritan-we learn she has virtually no friends in the world, or comforts except booze and pills. Her story ends on an ambiguous note, suggesting that she'll forge ahead in the movie world but never regain the health, much less the innocence, she's lost.
The Goddess was Stanley's first movie, and she would make only a handful more (ending with The Right Stuff in 1983) before her death from cancer in 2001. But for many years she was remarkably active in other fields: She had acquired a whopping seventy-five television credits by 1955, and during the same period she studied Method acting with Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan at the Actors Studio and conquered Broadway in the William Inge plays Picnic and Bus Stop.
Although stage acting was her favorite kind, Stanley quit theater work in 1965, when London critics tore apart an Actors Studio production of The Three Sisters, deciding the Method and Anton Chekhov were not a good match. At about this time she had a mental breakdown, after which she scaled down her activities, eventually becoming an acting teacher in New Mexico, the state she came from. She stayed active in TV until the early 1970s, though, and her occasional movie appearances were enthusiastically received. She earned Oscar® nominations for Best Actress in the 1964 drama Séance on a Wet Afternoon and Best Supporting Actress in the 1982 biopic Frances, where she played the mother of Frances Farmer, another gifted actress with psychological problems.
Some critics have conjectured that The Goddess was based on the career of Ava Gardner, but most think its primary model was Marilyn Monroe, who studied at the Actors Studio at the same time Stanley did. Stanley herself said she never thought of Monroe when she read the script, thinking someone like Jayne Mansfield was closer to what Chayefsky had in mind. It's interesting to note that Monroe's sister-in-law, Joan Copeland, plays Emily's aunt in The Goddess. Stanley said later that Copeland's brother--playwright Arthur Miller, married to Monroe at the time-thought Monroe should sue someone over the movie.
Chayefsky, like Stanley, built his reputation in TV during the golden age of live production. His first feature-film credit was for the 1951 comedy As Young as You Feel, with Monroe in the cast, and he earned renown in both media with successes like Marty and The Bachelor Party, made as TV dramas and then remade (in 1955 and 1957) as movies. His strong points were a creative concern for language, a recurring interest in commonplace situations and events, and a knack for exploring the tensions between average people and the conventions, institutions, and traditions that shape their lives. With its portrait of an ordinary woman swept away by Hollywood dreams and delusions, The Goddess fits this pattern well.
Just as The Goddess was Stanley's first Hollywood picture, it was director John Cromwell's last, although he made two additional features in other countries. He walked out on the production after a fierce dispute over the editing, which Chayefsky insisted on doing himself, despite a near-total lack of experience or expertise.
Anyone who finds The Goddess marred by a stilted pace, underwritten minor characters, and a mood that's much too solemn can blame Chayefsky, as both Cromwell and Stanley did. Calling it "my least favorite out of any work I've ever done," Stanley told an interviewer that "the reason it's so strange [is] the way it's edited." She added that Chayefsky's final cut "left out all the comedic stuff, and it broke my heart because nobody doesn't try to laugh once in a while. I mean, no fooling! Little Orphan Annie in Hollywood is really not interesting."
The Goddess fared poorly at the box office, and Stanley's performance has drawn mixed reviews over the years--some saying that she acts well but isn't sexy enough, others that she's extremely sexy but miscast anyway. Whatever your verdict, it's hard to argue with the emotional truth she pulls from Chayefsky's sometimes ponderous dialogue, etching a sharp portrayal of a woman whose frustration with dream-factory illusion drives her to everything from sex to liquor to religion in search of a psychological escape route. Its other qualities aside, The Goddess is well worth viewing for its unsentimental depiction of Hollywood as a place where celebrity trumps all other values, and the people most victimized by the place are the ones least able to cope with it.
Producer: Milton Perlman
Director: John Cromwell
Screenplay: Paddy Chayefsky
Cinematography: Arthur J. Ornitz
Film editing: Carl Lerner
Art direction: Edward Haworth
Music: Virgil Thomson
Cast: Kim Stanley (Emily Ann Faulkner, Rita Shawn), Lloyd Bridges (Dutch Seymour), Steve Hill (John Tower), Betty Lou Holland (Mrs. Faulkner), Joan Copeland (the Aunt), Gerald Hiken (the Uncle), Patty Duke (Emily Ann Faulkner as a child), Bert Freed (Lester Brackman), Joyce Van Patten (Hillary), Louise Beavers (the Cook), Werner Klemperer (Mr. Woolsey), Burt Brinckerhoff (the Boy).
by Mikita Brottman and David Sterritt
The Goddess (1958) - The Goddess
George Justin's onscreen credit reads "This film was under the special supervision of George Justin." The film is broken into three parts that are announced by the following written titles: "Part I...Portrait of a Young Girl...Maryland 1930," "Part II...Portrait of a Young Woman...Hollywood 1947" and "Part III...Portrait of a Goddess...1952." According to a July 1957 New York Times article, the interior scenes of the film were shot at the Gold Medal Studios in the Bronx, New York, and location shooting was done in Maryland and in Hollywood. Location filming was also done at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills and at the Fox Village Theater in Westwood, California. The Goddess marked the first original screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, who at the time was as known as a playwright specializing in television dramas. The film also marked the screen debut of stage actress Kim Stanley and John Cromwell's return to directing after a seven year hiatus. Although child actress Patty Duke had made her feature film debut in Country Music Holiday, shortly before her appearance in The Goddess, the latter film marked her first onscreen credit. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Writing.
Many reviewers noted that Marilyn Monroe served as a prototype for the character "Emily Ann Faulkner." A May 1958 news item in LA Mirror News notes that Chayefsky denied the character was based on Monroe after the actress' husband, playwright Arthur Miller, objected to naming Monroe as a prototype for the film's lead character. According to a modern source, Monroe actually considered playing the part. A number of other actresses were also considered for the role. A January 1965 New York Times news item noted that Stanley asked Chayefsky to "lighten up" the character of Emily Ann, but he refused.
According to a February 1973 Variety article, the Internal Revenue Service chose The Goddess as a test case to challenge the long-standing industry policy that allowed indendent producers to depreciate and amortize the cost of the film on their tax return. According to the IRS, because Columbia provided the film's negative costs to Chayefsky's Carnegie Productions, Columbia in effect owned the film project, therefore nullifying Chayefsky's ability to depreciate the film. The outcome of that suit is unknown.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best American Films By the 1958 National Board of Review.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1958 New York Times Film Critics.
Released in United States Spring May 1958
Patty Duke makes her screen debut.
Released in United States Spring May 1958