Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White opened at the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1976 as a work in progress. This one-act play is introduced by the Columbia Pictures Lady speaking in Clara’s stead. Each scene is first a film set, with the leading roles played by the film’s primary actors. Places and people from Clara’s life, including Clara, who has only a bit part, appear in parallel supporting roles. In her stage directions, Kennedy describes the supporting actors’ attitudes toward the leads as “deadly serious.”
Characters in scene 1 include actors Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in a scene set on an ocean liner from the film Now, Voyager (1942); the scene simultaneously occurs in a Cleveland hospital lobby in June and July of 1955. Clara’s mother and father, as they were in a 1929 photograph, are on deck. Clara silently joins them, but she isolates herself from the action by writing in a notebook and allowing Bette Davis to speak for her of marital discord, a miscarriage, fears of bleeding to death in labor, and childhood traumas. Clara’s dominant response to emotional confrontation is to read passages from The Owl Answers, which she has apparently been writing in her notebook. As the scene ends, Clara enters her comatose brother’s hospital room and relates what she sees to the film Viva Zapata! (1952).
Scene 2, with Jean Peters and Marlon Brando in Viva Zapata!, takes...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
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