Star 80: Fosse’s Sordid and Shallow Biopic of Murdered Playboy Model Dorothy Stratten

Bob Fosse’s biopic of Playboy model Dorothy Stratten, Star 80, is a glossy but shallow, semi-fictionalized version of Stratten’s murder by her jealous husband Paul Snider.

Our grade: B- (** out of *****)

Mariel Hemingway, lacking overt sex appeal and temperament, is arguably miscast, though Eric Roberts gives a strong performance as her insanely obsessive and jealous husband.

The story is based on Teresa Carpenter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice article “Death of a Playmate.”  The film’s title derived from Snider’s vanity license plates.

Hugh Heffner sued the producers of the picture, expressing disapproval of the way in which he was depicted in the film.

In accordance with the family’s wishes, Dorothy’s mother is never mentioned by in the movie, and the names of her sister and brother were altered.

The death scene was shot in the same house in which the murder and suicide actually took place.

The second movie based on Stratten’s murder of Stratten, Star 80 was preceded by the 1981 TV movie Death of a Centerfold, in which Jamie Lee Curtis portrayed Stratten, and Bruce Weitz was Paul Snider.

Unfortunately, Star 80 was the last film to be directed by Bob Fosse, who died at age 60. After a series of good, even brilliant films (Cabaret in 1972), Fosse ended his career with a sordid picture, borderline sleazy, in which he showed no affinity with the protagonist or her life.

Received by mixed critical response, the movie was a box-office failure, which didn’t even recoup its budget.