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January 17, 1990 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1990-01-17

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The Michigan Daily -Wednesday, January 17,1990 - Page 9
WW '7-w-~

No small affair

Blaze
dir. Ron Shelton
Y DAVID LUBLINER
Blaze proves that it is people
who make history fascinating, rather
than the events in which they took
part. And it is the actors in this film
portraying people in history who
.make it a success. The film recon-
:firms the assertion that Paul New-
man is one of this country's greatest
actors and also marks the debut of
* Lolita Davidovich, a young actor
,uith an extremely bright future.
; Blaze is the story of Louisiana
Sovernor Earl K. Long's scandalous
.relationship with an exotic dancer
tamed Blaze Starr: Set in 1959, the
$rlm depicts the couple's willingness
to persevere in a society critical of
OIeir romance.
Earl Long, the younger brother
of Huey P. Long, held political ideas
that were progressive for the day. He
;fought for the rights of Blacks to
,ote, taxed the big oil companies,
-nd governed from the back streets
rather than from behind an office
desk. His eccentric and unpredictable
qualities come to life in Newman's
portrayal.
Newman's performance is to-
tally consuming; he becomes Earl
Long in every way imaginable -
emotionally, politically, and spiritu-
ally. He effectively moves from one
extreme to another, always capable
of changing course in a second.
He portrays Long as a strong
and powerful man but also one who
suffers from the same frailities that
we all possess. It is in this way that
he becomes an endearing characte:,
someone with whom we can iden-
tify. Although his critics in the film
consider Long to be insane, Newman
createsan appealing, sympathetic
character who at the same time can
'be viewed as a genius.
Davidovich, whose roots are in
Yugoslavia, is entirely convincing
as Blaze Starr. We see her transform
A

from a farmgirl in West Virginia
into a national sensation. She carries
an innocence underneath her sexual
appeal that makes Starr a warm char-
acter. She possesses a certain dignity
that helps her gain respec from ev-
eryone - Long, the media, and the
people of Louisiana. Starr exempli-
fies this sense of dignity early on,
when she stands up to a sleazy club
owner named Red Snyder (Robert
Wuhl). It is Snyder who officially
changes the aspiring singer's name
from Fannie Belle Fleming to Blaze
Starr, stripper.
The film's faults lie in the
plot line and story development. Di-
rector Ron Shelton (Bull Durham)
takes poetic license with the histori-
cal facts of the relationship between
Long and Starr and, as a result,
greatly simplifies aspects of the
story. For example, Long's wife is
completely left out of the picture.
The filmmakers also shift events
around in order to create a more dra-
matic ending.
The film does take great pains,
however, to accurately recreate the
lifestyle in Louisiana during the late
'54s. Set Designer Armin Ganz
brings the South of this period to
life. Although the storyline deviates
from actual events, the locations,
costumes, and sets help create a
backdrop that adds historical detail to
the film.
While the plot becomes a wa-
tered-down version of the truth, the
outstanding and authentic perfor-
mances of both leading actors make
this story come alive. We learn to
care more about these two people
than the events taking place around
them. Starr and Long could have
lived in any era. When seen without
the plot's distractions of corruption
and the political machine, Blaze be-
comes a moder-day story of Romeo
and Juliet, one with which we can
all identify.
BLAZE is playing at Ann Arbor 1 &
2.

Newcomer Lolita Davidovich and old-timer Paul Newman portray the controversial relationship of Louisiana Governor Earl Long and stripper Blaze
Starr. Yes, Earl was the brother of politician Huey Long. No, Blaze is not related to comic strip reporter/diva Brenda Starr. Blaze does have red hair, w
though. .--f--- if

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