Star!, a film biography of the British actress/singer Gertrude Lawrence (1898-1952), must have seemed like an excellent vehicle for Julie Andrews when it went into production in 1967 for a fall 1968 release. Andrews was, after all, the top female film star of the day, with a string of movie musical hits including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music behind her, and she was steeped in the vaudeville/music hall tradition from which Lawrence had emerged. But the project was inherently less likely to be accepted by a mass audience than Andrews' earlier triumphs, since it would not appeal to children and would feature a song score filled largely with evergreens from the 1920s, '30s, and '40s instead of new material. Also, despite the apparently appropriate casting, Andrews was really more of a singer than an actress (the opposite of Lawrence), and not nearly as earthy. Barbra Streisand may have found a winning approach to portraying Fanny Brice (in some ways an American counterpart to Lawrence) in the almost simultaneously released Funny Girl despite their differences, but Andrews was not so successful with Lawrence. And a lot was riding on the film. Robert Wise, who had helmed The Sound of Music, was back as director, and 20th Century-Fox expected something comparably lavish and lucrative. So, lots of money was spent, and the picture was released at a nearly three-hour running time. The result was a financial disaster that crippled Andrews' film career. That said, the soundtrack album is in some ways the best of it. One can simply ignore the film and its history and enjoy a disc's worth of Andrews interpreting a bunch of good songs by Noël Coward, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Kurt Weill, among others. She's not particularly convincing on suggestive lyrics such as Porter's "The Physician" and doesn't really dig into "The Saga of Jenny," but she's terrific on the ballad "Someone to Watch Over Me" and some of the vaudeville songs. Although Andrews dominates the disc, she does share the spotlight here and there, notably on "Dear Little Boy (Dear Little Girl)," joining Daniel Massey, who portrays Coward.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann