Blaze (1989), opinion written by Tuna, edited by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Blaze is the story of the romance between Earl K. Long, "governor of the great state of Louisiana", and Blaze Starr, an exotic dancer. That relationship cost him the governorship.

In truth, he was under some political pressure because of his progressive position on black voters' rights, but the opposition used his relationship with a woman of easy virtue to bring him down. The Longs had been in power in Louisiana for many years, starting with Earl's brother Huey, so the ousting was a major deal. Some time later, he was elected to the U.S. Congress in a comeback, but never lived to serve. Ms. Starr eventually moved to Baltimore, where, at the time the film was made, she was still part of the cultural scene.


Davidovich shows her breasts in a sex scene with Newman, and we get side views near the beginning of the film.

I have no way to judge the accuracy of the film version, but the basic facts are entirely true. My memories from the press at the time are a little vague, but it was enough of a scandal that I do remember it. It should be reasonably accurate since it was written by director Ron Shelton based on a book written by Ms. Starr herself, and using Starr as a consultant on the film. Unsurprisingly given those facts, the movie does not portray her as a woman of easy virtue at all, and shows that, despite their age difference, the governor and the dancer were truly in love.

A former minor league baseball player, Shelton entered the film world as a writer/director with the acclaimed Bull Durham, which was a fictional version of some of his best minor league stories. Those yarns included Shelton's experiences with the legendary Steve Dalkowski, the fastest pitcher who ever lived, and an important part of the inspiration for Nuke LaLoosh (they even used Dalkowski's actual stats for Nuke's!). Blaze was Shelton's second directorial effort, and was the only non-sports film he made in his first 14 years as a director.

  1. (7.19) - Bull Durham (1988)
  2. (6.59) - Dark Blue (2002)
  3. (6.20) - Cobb (1994)
  4. (6.20) - White Men Can't Jump (1992)
  5. (6.20) - Tin Cup (1996)
  6. (6.01) - Blaze (1989)
  7. (5.31) - Hollywood Homicide (2003)
  8. (5.12) - Play It to the Bone (1999)

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

For a sports guy making a non-sports movie, Shelton did just fine. Paul Newman was brilliant as Earl Long, and Lolita Davidovich made a very convincing Blaze. 

For a biopic to hold my interest, the characters must be interesting, or interesting things must happen to them. In this case, both are true. This is either a biopic, or a romantic comedy, but either way, it transcends the genre, and is hence a B.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Roger Ebert 3.5/4.

  • It was nominated for an Oscar for cinematography.

The People Vote ...

  • It grossed $19 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a B. (Scoop's note: the IMDb score seems to underrate this movie, but there is no sign of any tampering with the votes. All demographic groups with three votes or more score it between 5.8 and 6.6. Given that tepid score and the film's weak box office, the proper score is probably C+, reflecting a lack of broad-based appeal. I suppose that the lack of enthusiasm derives from the fact that the film is, after all, a nuance-free whitewash of Blaze's life, telling only her side of the story.)

Return to the Movie House home page