Bob Fosse’s Last Film ‘Star 80’ Depicts the Dark Side of a Great Hollywood Tragedy

Star 80

Dolly Stratten was always meant to be a star. The Vancouver-born model took a flight to Los Angeles on a whim. Luckily for her, in the late 1970s, things seemed to be working out for her. In 1979, she even guest-starred on Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. 

She was also preparing herself for a juicy supporting role in the New Hollywood slapstick, which was a homage to They All Laughed, to be directed by the renowned Peter Bogdonavich. 

Had she lived to her full potential, who knows how far she would’ve made it in the industry?

Unfortunately, on August 14th, Dorothy Stratten breathed her last after she was murdered brutally by Paul Snider, her husband. He was the one who lured Stratten away from Vancouver by promising her a life of luxury and fame. However, he soon spiraled into an obsession so toxic, it didn’t end well for Stratten when her success overshadowed his own. 

Needless to say, the murder of Dorothy Stratten is one of the most horrifying and heinous crimes to take place in Los Angeles. 

star 801983, R, 103 min. Directed by Bob Fosse. Starring Mariel Hemingway, Eric Roberts, Cliff Robertson, Roger Rees, Carroll Baker.

The main focus of Star 80 should’ve been Stratten’s life, especially considering it’s the works of Bob Fosse, serving as a haunting and problematic final movie. However, the movie’s more about Paul Snider, a terrifying murderer who’s played by Eric Roberts. 

He has been played as a man shunned by society because of his delusional, obsessive behavior, carrying and flaunting a pornstache.

Sadly, our world is full of despicable human beings like Paul Snider, who are controlling and envious of women and go as far as to harass and even kill women once they know they “can’t” have them. The portrayal of Snider isn’t any less creepy, and the movie does not address the question of why ‘Star 80’ chose to focus on the murderer rather than the budding star herself – Dorothy Stratten. 

Actress Mariel Hemingway played the gone-too-soon star Dorothy Stratten in Fosse’s Star 80:

Star 80

Roberts plays Snider to the dot. The moment he appears on-screen, you can’t help but feel what a loathsome character Snider was. As he continues to be a predator towards Stratten, you wish to scream at the top of your lungs telling her to run for her life from this deranged human being. 

Director Fosse and actress Mariel Hemingway who played Stratten, depicted the relationship as more or less a cypher; with the latter being a passive participant in her own life. The characterization of Stratten by Fosse has been borderline cryptic. On the other hand, Roberts has played Snider as nasty as possible, giving a strong hint of someone who wears cheap cologne and displays predatory desperation towards the weak and vulnerable.

Bob Fosse has a way with his characters getting far too dark within the movie. Considering his previous work involving a love triangle in a decade-best masterpiece, Cabaret, defying all laws of obscenity in Lenny’s biopic, Lenny, or even tackling a narcissistic showman as he sets upon the journey of confronting his morals in All That Jazz

Despite all that, Star 80 is easily one of the most unpleasant true-story movies in American cinema. The film understands the notion of “evil” and specifically male-driven evil on an intrinsic level. The movie has the potential to leave any viewer shaking to their core, albeit a bit intentionally and unintentionally. 

One of the most pressing questions about Star 80 remains; why would someone choose to make a movie about Dorothy Stratten’s heinous murder, instead of centering the movie on her life? Fosse’s alleged claim to somehow identify with Snider is also unsettling, considering how if he weren’t a known filmmaker, that’s the path Fosse himself might’ve taken. 

This brings us to the question, what was the point of coming up with a movie like Star 80 when the filmmakers, in the long run, maybe prove that somehow, the morbidity contributed to Stratten’s death?

The writer believed that the purpose of the movie is to get the audience to look within themselves and see how women are treated as disposable instead of living, breathing human beings much like themselves. 

Despite the numerous flaws, Star 80 depicts America’s toxicity, in exploiting beautiful and talented women in Hollywood, in the best way possible.

Andrew Dominik’s biopic of Marilyn Monroe titled ‘Blonde’ has also stirred a similar debate. The movie shall be premiering at fall festivals within the year. 

Another question that’d plague the minds of many is why dig up the bitter past of the most beloved celebrities if the film serves no other purpose than to drag the subject and those who were complicit in the acts in a derogatory way.

Star 80 has no answers for questions like these. The movie wants its viewers to feel disgusted with it, and sure, many people had such a reaction. 

In The New York Times, Vincent Canby described Star 80 as a “movie without a payoff.” 

Bogdonavich, who plays the arrogant auteur, Aram Nicholas, believed that the film rather exploited Stratten and that Fosse only retold Dothory’s side of the story. 

In case you’re wondering, the movie offers no catharsis or redemption in any way. It is just a retelling of a bright young woman who met an ugly end at the hands of a man under the pretense of love because of a predatory industry. Ultimately, she lost her life while living a distressing life with an abusive monster before reaching the age to drink legally.

Going back to the main question, what makes Star 80 such an important film, and what does it teach us? After watching the horrifying reality, the answer is quite straightforward. To this day, Fosse’s final movie captures the true essence of evils committed against women every other day. 

Sadly, Hollywood is a place that flourishes on exploitation, and the practice continues to this day. The movie itself is a beautiful lie, however, one cannot deny the harrowing truth it depicts and how it forces us to confront it. 

Watch the trailer for Dorothy Stratten’s life depicted in Star 80 right here: 

Chris Mack

Chris Mack

Meet Chris Mack, your go-to expert for the best of BBC iPlayer with a twist—he's also a cybersecurity enthusiast. Whether you're into British entertainment classics or searching for hidden gems, Chris has you covered, always with an eye for secure streaming practices. Beyond the screen, Chris blends his love for reading and exploring the outdoors with a passion for staying ahead in the world of cybersecurity, ensuring a safe viewing experience. If you're looking for top British TV picks or tips on keeping your digital viewing secure, Chris is your guide. Dive into the drama of British TV with Chris!

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