Even when the material at screen center is thin, however, the margins hold your attention. I don't think Marshall Chapman has an audible line in the entire movie as Kelly's omnipresent handler, but she confers a silent authority wherever she goes: She saunters through the movie's backstage areas as if she were born with a lanyard.
But then, when the movie went into national release a few weeks later, there arrived this review from no less a figure than Roger Ebert. Somewhat damning the film with faint praise — although by calling it "one of the best movies of 1957," maybe he meant it really is as good as The Seventh Seal, Paths of Glory and The Bridge on the River Kwai — Ebert nonetheless gave high marks to one performer:
The only truly realistic character in the movie has hardly a line. That would be the tall, middle-age female who's apparently Kelly's wardrobe woman and follows her everywhere like those well-paid and not indifferent support people in the lives of stars. She sees everything and knows everything and keeps her mouth shut, which is what you want. She's got your back.
While Ebert had Chapman's back, her best notice was yet to come. In The New York Times, Manohla Dargis' bashing made Ebert's lukewarm praise sound like a freakin' Humanitas Award. (The headline "I Am Woman. Hear Me Sob, Y'All" says it all.) Unlike Ebert, she not only diagnosed the source of the movie's flaws but prescribed a fix:
It’s too bad that Ms. Feste didn’t ditch the female victim bit and make a movie about a survivor like the musician Marshall Chapman, who has a small, vivid role as Kelly’s road manager and is going strong at 62 with songs in which a woman can run “on a tank full of burning desire” and not just despair.
We hear there's a lot of juicy material (e.g., a subplot involving Hedlund's parents) that was shot but for whatever reason didn't make it into the finished film. When the DVD comes out, maybe there'll be more of it — and more of Chapman. Or maybe she can do a commentary. We have just the tagline for the DVD box: "Chapman Speaks!"