Scriptwriters: André-Paul Antoine, Marcel Blistène
Director: Marcel Blistène
Production designer: Jean d’Eaubonne
Composers: Guy Luypaerts, Marguerite Monnot
Music: Songs “Adieu mon Coeur”, “C’est Merveilleux”, “Mariage” performed by Édith Piaf. Music - Marguerite Monnot, lyrics by Henri Contet
Cast: Édith Piaf, Serge Reggiani, Mila Parély, Marcel Herrand, Jules Berry, Yves Montand, Colette Brosset, Georges Vitray, Jean Raymond
The debut film of the journalist Marcel Blistène (real name - Blitstein) is not the only and not the most outstanding melodrama on the theme of how the arrival of sound ruined the lives of silent film actors. However, this film is interesting for its casting, extraordinary and even unique. In addition to Edith Piaf, who was at the zenith of fame by the mid-forties, her protégé, a young actor Yves Montand, here appears on the screen for the first time. Their mad and doomed (due to the age difference) romance is also reflected in this film (“When will we get married?” asks the young car mechanic Pierre. - “In a year, when you grow up,” the girl answers). In the film, the lovers were torn apart by Madeleine’s voice, and her failure after Stella's death gave them a ghostly hope of reunion. In real life, the voice united the two great chansonniers of the French stage: Edith Piaf acted as a mentor and acting agent of her young lover, and the success of Yves Montand divided their biographies forever. On the screen, Montand’s character is jealous and tormented, he tries to heal the pain with infidelity, but does not stop loving. And with all his might he hates the messenger of cruel destiny, the sound engineer Gaston, who “promotes” Madeleine and who, of course, is also interested in the girl. The role of Gaston is played by another great singer and actor of French cinema, Serge Reggiani.
All the film’s characters, without exception, are torn apart by passion and jealousy, but the most serious rivalry arises between the silent film star and her little maid. Having “stolen” Madeleine's voice, Stella cannot forgive her the gift that she herself is deprived of. The maid, in her turn, realizes that along with her voice, her life was stolen as well: bound by her obligations, she is forced to hide the fact that success belongs to her but another one is reaping the laurels.
Metaphorically, the confrontation between a talentless mistress and a talented servant is identified with the tragedy of many silent film stars. Dramatically, it is the selling of one’s soul, a motive that has been repeatedly used in classical literature.
Sufficiently successful with the public, the film caused controversy in the press. Édith Piaf was criticized as a dramatic actress most of all - and, to a lesser extent, Montand and Reggiani, who did not sing in this film, but acted better than she did. But Boris Vian, a great writer, jazzman and essayist, admired the songs of Édith Piaf in “Star Without Light” on the pages of “Les Temps Modernes” magazine. The evaluation of the performers is largely a matter of taste. However, a criticism that cannot be disagreed with is the error against reality, the absence of the slightest attempt to observe the accuracy of the details of everyday life, clothes, hairstyles, cars, and other signs of the times. The story that takes place in France in the late 1920s unfolds in the interiors of the mid-1940s. And yet, even the merciless columnist of the newspaper “Libération” recommends watching this “melodrama not without charm”.
It seems that, among the audience who responded to this call, there were also some professionals. Seven years later, the story written by the famous screenwriter André-Paul Antoine together with Marcel Blistène was clearly and without mentioning the names of the authors used by their Hollywood colleagues Betty Comden and Adolph Green, authors of the famous musical “Singing in the Rain” (directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952). And more than half a century later, in the famous “The Artist” by Michel Hazanavicius (2011), “Star Without Light” would be honestly mentioned in the credits as one of the films that inspired the creators of “The Artist”.
History, as we know, repeats itself, sometimes in the form of a tragedy (or melodrama), sometimes in the form of farce (or comedy). Perhaps the tale of a stolen voice and lost love will again return to the screens more than once in one incarnation or another.