A largely fictionalized account of the career of actress Jeanne Eagels, whose fame was both on stage and on the screen in the 1910s and 1920s, is presented. After losing in a rigged carnival beauty pageant, winning which she believed would be her first step to becoming a serious actress, Jeanne joins the traveling carnival itself under the guidance of the pageant organizer, Sal Satori, who features her in a variety of carnival stage shows. But it’s when the carnival approaches New York City that Jeanne demonstrates how she truly mapped out her road to acting fame even before meeting Sal. Under the tutelage of renowned acting coach Nellie Neilson, Jeanne, who does possess true acting talent, is given her big acting break and does achieve fame on the Broadway stage, and ultimately also in Hollywood films. Jeanne is not averse to doing whatever is required to advance her career, even at the expense of others. Achieving fame so quickly takes its toll on Jeanne, who turns to alcohol and …
User Reviews: "Jeanne Eagels" can almost be considered a "lost" film, since it is so rarely seen nowadays. That seems a shame. Yes, it suffers from standard "biopic" problems (cliched script, superficiality, etc.), but it is an interesting curiosity piece. Kim Novak, fresh onto the acting scene, actually acquits herself quite well in the role. There is an air of the troubled woman about her from the beginning, and the way she keeps adopting different personas shows Jeanne’s desperate search for an identity. Contrary to the other reviewer here, I think that the drunk scenes are quite effective, without ever being pretty or played for comedic purposes. She succeeds in making Jeanne unlikable at times, which is a brave choice for the era. Unfortunately, the script and direction aren’t the best, and some of Novak’s more interesting choices contrast with other scenes that just don’t come off as well. It’s definitely worth a look though. I would argue that Novak’s style is more "modern" than many other actresses of the era. Whether she always succeeds or not, she clearly looks for the reality of each scene, and is less interested in acting and more interested in "being." There are moments when I think she comes close to "being" Jeanne Eagels, making this forgotten film worth a second look.