Blaze (1989)

R | 115 mins | Biography, Romance | 13 December 1989

Director:

Ron Shelton

Cinematographer:

Haskell Wexler

Production Designer:

Armin Ganz

Production Companies:

Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV
Full page view
HISTORY

The film concludes with the following epilogue: “Earl K. Long was buried in the city park in his beloved home town of Winnfield, Louisiana, one week after being elected to the U.S. Congress. Blaze Starr moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she is still a performing artist on the local cultural scene.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, director Ron Shelton came across Blaze Starr’s 1974 autobiography, Blaze Starr: My Life As Told to Huey Perry, and bought the screen rights in 1983. He spent hours recording Starr’s recollections of her years with Louisiana Governor Earl Long and decided to make the tale of political scandal into a May-December romance. He received resistance from studios, which deemed the movie “uncastable,” but eventually got it to A & M Films president Gil Friesen, who was not impressed by the script, but loved the idea. After his success directing Bull Durham (1988, see entry), Shelton sent the script to actor Paul Newman. The actor signed on to portray Long, while a lengthy search ensued to find the actress to play Blaze. After months of auditioning for the part, Canadian stripper Lolita Davidovich was cast for her feature film debut, beating out Melanie Griffith, who was reportedly in contention for the role. On 25 Jan 1989, Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that Newman briefly left the project, and that Gene Hackman was considered as his replacement.
       Production notes indicate that principal photography began in Apr 1989 at the East Louisiana Hospital in Jackson, LA. Other locations included Clinton High School in Clinton, LA, which stood in for “Mandeville State Hospital.” Three weeks later, ... More Less

The film concludes with the following epilogue: “Earl K. Long was buried in the city park in his beloved home town of Winnfield, Louisiana, one week after being elected to the U.S. Congress. Blaze Starr moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where she is still a performing artist on the local cultural scene.”
       According to production notes in AMPAS library files, director Ron Shelton came across Blaze Starr’s 1974 autobiography, Blaze Starr: My Life As Told to Huey Perry, and bought the screen rights in 1983. He spent hours recording Starr’s recollections of her years with Louisiana Governor Earl Long and decided to make the tale of political scandal into a May-December romance. He received resistance from studios, which deemed the movie “uncastable,” but eventually got it to A & M Films president Gil Friesen, who was not impressed by the script, but loved the idea. After his success directing Bull Durham (1988, see entry), Shelton sent the script to actor Paul Newman. The actor signed on to portray Long, while a lengthy search ensued to find the actress to play Blaze. After months of auditioning for the part, Canadian stripper Lolita Davidovich was cast for her feature film debut, beating out Melanie Griffith, who was reportedly in contention for the role. On 25 Jan 1989, Long Beach Press-Telegram reported that Newman briefly left the project, and that Gene Hackman was considered as his replacement.
       Production notes indicate that principal photography began in Apr 1989 at the East Louisiana Hospital in Jackson, LA. Other locations included Clinton High School in Clinton, LA, which stood in for “Mandeville State Hospital.” Three weeks later, production moved to Baton Rouge, LA, where they filmed in the Old Governor’s Mansion, the Beaux-Arts Capital Building, the State Legislatures Building, which included the Capitol Rotunda and observation deck overlooking the statue and grave of Huey P. Long, Earl Long’s brother. Interiors and exteriors of Blaze’s West Virginia home, Sho-Bar, the Flamingo Motel, a section of a DC-3 airplane, and the interior of Long’s office were constructed in an abandoned Woolco store.
       The crew moved to Long’s “Pea Patch Farm” in Winnfield, LA, before shooting in New Orleans. The 10 Aug 1989 HR announced that filming was completed in Louisiana in late Jun 1989. Items in the 2 Mar 1989 LAHExam and 15 Dec 1989 HR estimated that the $22 million production contributed $13.5 million to the local Louisiana economy. Additional footage was shot in Montgomery, Saline, Hudson and Jonesboro, AL. The unit later moved to the Great Smokey Mountains in Tennessee to recreate Starr’s birthplace, then to Burbank, CA, at the Walt Disney Studios, where shooting wrapped on 7 Jul 1989.
       The film received an Academy Award nomination for Cinematography.
       Onscreen acknowledgments state: “The Producers wish to thank: The People of the Great State of Louisiana; The Lousiana Film Commission; The Winnfield Film Commission; The Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission; The Beech Grove Processing Plant, Lake City, Tennessee; The La. Purchase Garden and Zoo, Monroe, Louisiana.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Feb 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 Aug 1989.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 1989
p. 4, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Dec 1989.
---
LAHExam
25 Jan 1989.
---
LAHExam
2 Mar 1989.
---
Long Beach Press-Telegram
13 Jan 1989.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Dec 1989
p. 1.
New York Times
16 Jun 2015.
---
New York Times
13 Dec 1989
p. 24.
Variety
13 Dec 1989
p. 28, 30.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Touchstone Pictures presents
in association with Silver Screen Partners IV
An A & M Films Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
Addl 2d asst dir
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
2d unit dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Wrt for the scr
Wrt for the scr
Wrt for the scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
Gyrosphere cam op
Gyrosphere cam op
Chief lighting tech
Best boy elec
Lamp op
Lamp op
Key grip
2d company grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Asst cam, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
2d company grip
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Asst art dir
Art dept coord
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Asst ed
Asst ed
Scandal montage seq
Scandal montage seq
Scandal montage seq
SET DECORATORS
Set des
Leadman
Leadman
Prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
Const coord
Const foreperson
Const foreperson
Const foreperson
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Standby painter
COSTUMES
Cost des
Cost supv
Men's costumer
Men's costumer
Women's costumer
Women's costumer
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus comp and arr by
Asst mus ed
Addl mus comp by
Mus scoring mixer
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Boom op
Cableperson
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
ADR ed
ADR asst
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley artist
Foley artist
Sd eff rec
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Dolby Stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff leadman
Opticals
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairstylist
Makeup artist
Gyrosphere helicopter pilot
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Scr supv
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Asst to exec prod
Asst to Mr. Shelton
Asst to prod
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Loc liaison
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst prod coord
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod consultant
Tech consultant
Prod auditor
1st asst accountant
Unit pub
Dialect coach
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Transportation capt
Texas casting
Extra casting
Casting asst
Animal handler
Animal handler
Gyrosphere helicopter pilot
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based upon the book Blaze Starr: My Life As Told to Huey Perry by Blaze Starr and Huey Perry (New York, 1974).
SONGS
"Mockin' Bird Hill," written by Vaughn Horton, performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"C. C. Rider," written by Chuck Willis, produced and performed by Bennie Wallace, courtesy of Blue Note Records
"Hey There," written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
+
SONGS
"Mockin' Bird Hill," written by Vaughn Horton, performed by Les Paul and Mary Ford, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"C. C. Rider," written by Chuck Willis, produced and performed by Bennie Wallace, courtesy of Blue Note Records
"Hey There," written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross
"The Next Time You See Me," written by Bill Harvey and Don Robey, performed by Bonnie Sheridan
"Harlem Nocturne," written by Earle Hagen, produced by Bennie Wallace
"One Night," written by Dave Bartholomew and Pearl King, performed by Fats Domino, courtesy of EMI, a division of Capitol Records, Inc., by arrangement with CEMA Special Markets
"Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," written and performed by Hank Williams, Sr., courtesy of PolyGram Records Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
"Hey, Good Lookin'," written by Hank Williams, Sr., courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.
"Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," written by Hank Williams, Sr., performed by Bonnie Sheridan
"I Can't Get Started," written by Ira Gershwin and Vernon Duke, performed by Sidney Bechet and Teddy Buckner, courtesy of GNP/Crescendo Records and Vogue Records
"You Are My Sunshine," written Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell, performed by King Cotton and His Swamp Coolers
"Come Back To Louisiana," written by Jay Chevalier and Robert Atwood, performed by Jay Chevalier and the Louisiana Longhorns, courtesy of Gene Williams Enterprises
"Deep Purple," written by Mitchell Parish and Peter DeRose, performed by Wayne King and His Orchestra, courtesy of MCA Records
"When The Saints Go Marching In," performed by Bonnie Sheridan
"Louisiana 1927," written and performed by Randy Newman, courtesy of Reprise Records, by arrangement with Warner Special Products
"Candy's Tune," written and produced and performed by Bennie Wallace, courtesy of Blue Note Records
"Blue Blaze," written and produced and performed by Bennie Wallace, courtesy of Blue Note Records
"Fine Night (For Prowlin'),"written and produced and performed by Bennie Wallace, courtesy of Blue Note Records.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
13 December 1989
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 13 Dec 1989
Production Date:
Apr--7 Jul 1989
Copyright Claimant:
Touchstone Pictures, a.a.d.o. the Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
14 December 1989
Copyright Number:
PA440001
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1950, Fannie Belle Fleming leaves Twelve People, West Virginia, armed with a guitar and her mother’s advice to never trust any man who says, “Trust me.” She gets a job in a Baltimore, Maryland, donut shop, where she meets “Red” Snyder, who offers her work in show business. He suggests changing her name to “Star Blaze,” due to her red hair, but she chooses “Blaze Starr.” Blaze takes the stage to sing, but discovers Red owns a burlesque house. As the patrons scream for her to strip, Blaze runs offstage. Appealing to her patriotism, Red tells her most of the crowd are enlisted men being sent to Korea to die for her country, and the least she can do is take off her clothes for their enjoyment. Blaze retakes the stage and has the men on their feet with her impromptu act, ending by covering herself with a cowboy hat. She revels in the acclaim, but is soon forced to flee Red’s club when he propositions her for sex. However, Blaze is quickly hired at another club, and over the next nine years, transforms from a backwoods country girl into a burlesque headliner. Tired of the crude men she meets, Blaze decides to go to New Orleans, Louisiana. When Governor Earl K. Long sees her perform, he is smitten and offers to buy her a fur coat if she will dine with him. Blaze refuses his offer, causing Long to storm into her dressing room and introduce himself. Blaze’s interest is piqued when she asks if she can trust Long and he replies, “Hell no.” As Long leaves the club, ... +


In 1950, Fannie Belle Fleming leaves Twelve People, West Virginia, armed with a guitar and her mother’s advice to never trust any man who says, “Trust me.” She gets a job in a Baltimore, Maryland, donut shop, where she meets “Red” Snyder, who offers her work in show business. He suggests changing her name to “Star Blaze,” due to her red hair, but she chooses “Blaze Starr.” Blaze takes the stage to sing, but discovers Red owns a burlesque house. As the patrons scream for her to strip, Blaze runs offstage. Appealing to her patriotism, Red tells her most of the crowd are enlisted men being sent to Korea to die for her country, and the least she can do is take off her clothes for their enjoyment. Blaze retakes the stage and has the men on their feet with her impromptu act, ending by covering herself with a cowboy hat. She revels in the acclaim, but is soon forced to flee Red’s club when he propositions her for sex. However, Blaze is quickly hired at another club, and over the next nine years, transforms from a backwoods country girl into a burlesque headliner. Tired of the crude men she meets, Blaze decides to go to New Orleans, Louisiana. When Governor Earl K. Long sees her perform, he is smitten and offers to buy her a fur coat if she will dine with him. Blaze refuses his offer, causing Long to storm into her dressing room and introduce himself. Blaze’s interest is piqued when she asks if she can trust Long and he replies, “Hell no.” As Long leaves the club, he is accosted by U.S. Congressman Arvin Deeter, who demands to know if Long supports giving African-Americans the right to vote. When Deeter uses a racial slur, Long takes him into an alley and bites his forehead. The next night, the wives of Long’s staff are scandalized when Blaze arrives at a dinner. Legislator Eldon Tuck voices his concern over a plan Long has to sidestep the state’s constitutional provision that a governor cannot succeed himself. The governor’s right-hand man, LaGrange, explains that Long will resign, allowing the lieutenant governor to take his seat for a few months. Long could then be re-elected and technically not break any laws. Tuck warns the legislature is passing a bill forbidding a governor to resign with less than nine months left of his term. As a result, Long decides to run for lieutenant governor while his “yes man,” Thibodeaux, runs for governor and eventually steps down, leaving Long free to reclaim the position. Tuck agrees to support the plan if Long will go “light” on the African-American voting issue, but Long refuses. Blaze leaves to use the bathroom and returns to find everyone but Long has left, but she refuses his forward advances. Confused, Long states she is not like any stripper he has ever known and registers her to vote. The next day, Blaze accompanies Long as he stops at a small town to give a speech. He is met by an African-American contingent demanding he keep his campaign promises to desegregate hospitals so black doctors and nurses can find employment. Although Long believes a politician must be discreet, Blaze refuses to stay in the car and demands Long treat her with respect. Long takes her to a state hospital and tells reporters Blaze is going to entertain the patients. As Blaze sings in the white ward, Long enters the “colored” ward and declares that it is a disgrace white doctors and nurses must treat blacks. He then pressures the hospital administrator to agree to hire African-American caregivers, but refuses to take public credit for the proposal. Long brings Blaze home with him, and she is shocked he lives in a rundown farmhouse. Once inside, Blaze strips and takes Long to bed, but discovers he is impotent. Blaze solves the problem by playing her guitar and singing ”Jambalaya.” A few days later, Tuck informs Long that the Democratic Party will pull its support if he approves the voting rights bill and keeps seeing Blaze. Long agrees to stay quiet on the bill, but informs Tuck that Blaze is staying. The day of the vote, Long appears in the legislature, but Tuck refuses to allow him to speak. Long spots a television camera and speaks out against the hypocrisy of white attitudes toward black citizens. He is escorted from the floor, and the bill is voted down. That night, Long is in bed with Blaze when reporters kick down the door and photograph them. Long chases them outside with a shotgun, but a doctor injects Long with a sedative and commits him to a state hospital. Blaze visits and informs him that he is still governor, since there is no law to prevent him governing from the asylum. Long fires the head of the hospital and appoints a new state director, who orders his release. Long is behind in the polls, and Thibodeaux cites his relationship with Blaze as the reason. When Long insists on taking Blaze on the campaign trail, LaGrange pulls Blaze aside and convinces her that the governor will lose if she stays with him. She suggests Long let her go until after the election, and returns home to see her mother. Blaze presents her with a fur coat, and is surprised to learn that she not only knows about her career, but has kept a scrapbook of press clippings. Long loses the election, but can only think of Blaze. Armed with a shotgun, he steals a police car and drives to New Orleans. Arriving at the club where Blaze works, he storms onstage looking for her. After he shoots out a spotlight, Blaze appears. Although Long denounces her choice of career, Blaze takes him into her arms. He escorts her to a nearby rooftop, and proposes. Blaze accepts. Long is suffering in retirement when he gets a call from a newspaper for an interview. However, reporters are only there to talk to Blaze about her career. She suggests Long could run for a national office, but the reporters hint that the ex-governor is insane. As Blaze protests, Long shoots a lawnmower that will not start. Long’s adversary, Arvin Deeter, uses Blaze to smear Long as a “whoremonger.” Instead of running away from Blaze’s stripping, Long embraces it, allowing her to go back to work while wearing a “Vote For Earl” button on her garter belt. On Election Day, Long suffers a major heart attack, but refuses to go to the hospital. Blaze takes him to a hotel and opens the blinds so reporters can see Long reading a newspaper. Once the polls close, Blaze has Long put on a couch as his cronies leave to observe the ballot count. She sings to her fiancé, and makes him promise they will be wed as soon as the election is over. Long whispers, “Trust me.” LaGrange, Thibodeaux, and Long’s other supporters rush in to announce Long’s victory, only to find him dead in Blaze’s lap. Blaze asks to left alone. As the men file out, a stuffed bobcat that Long used as a mascot falls off the shelf, splitting open to reveal jewels and cash. Masses of people come to view Long’s body in the state capitol. When everyone leaves, Blaze removes a single red rose from her bosom and places it in the coffin. Without looking back, she walks out. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.