Suzanne Pleshette never looks like she's giving her all -- even though she may well have given it long ago -- and this helps make her performances tantalizing in a pleasurably coy, winky way. In "The Star Maker," NBChs four-hour movie at 9 tonight and tomorrow night on Channel 4, Pleshette plays Margot Murray, wife of Hollywood director Danny Youngblood (Rock Hudson). After confronting her husband's teen-age lover and taking a cab ride home, Pleshette sexily propositions the driver.
She tells him to come into the house and have a drink and leave his meter running. "That can be pretty expensive," the driver warns her. "Oh, I don't mind," says Pleshette, pushing the meter's flag down, "I've been saving up." She gives such lines as much zing as could probably be given them, and even though her performance in "Star Maker" amounts to little more than just-dropping-in-to-say-hello, all her scenes are scenes .
William Bast, who wrote this latest example of Hollywood blarney about Hollywood, and the director, Lou Antonio, keep it tooting along with such skillful zip as to make implausibility an irrelevant cavil. As the film opens, Danny is escorting Margot from the site of a mutual triumph, a movie called "Hot Shot" in which he has made her a star, apparently by including a naughty nude scene.
Antonio and cinematographer Charles Correll shoot this as a cute visual prank; the stars appear to walk out of the theater, past a fawning interviewer (actually real-life fawning interviewer Army Archerd) and into the back of a limo for a runaway champagne toast in one continuous take. At a party, Hudson as the wayfaring pedophile takes an instant shine to 18-year-old Dawn Barrett (the pudgy Melanie Griffith) and soon has her signed up for his very next film.
Advising her on the art of the cinema, Hudson at one point explains, "On stage, you act; on screen, you think." A little late in the old career to be stumbling upon that revelation, eh Rock? A tough studio boss warns Hudson, "Two losers in a row, you'll be doing television," another of those lines that might have been ripped from life itself.
Danny and Margot plan to get a divorce, little Dawnie -- fleeing from a sexually abusive stepfather -- gets pregnant, and as for what comes next, NBC unfortunately supplied only the first half of the film for preview. A synopsis of the second half does make it sound just as choice as the first: "Danny's life picks up when he meets [16-year-old] Angel while he's recuperating in the hospital from a polo-sustained injury."
Brenda Vaccaro is a "special guest star" and making a "special guest appearance" is Ed McMahon as writer Lou Parker, a bit of casting that surely has nothing to do with the fact that the film was made by (Johnny) Carson Productions. Well what if it does? "Star Maker" is one of those slickly sleazy near-boots that can be forgiven almost anything.