A STAR IS BORN (1954) C widescreen 176m dir: George Cukor
w/Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford, Tommy Noonan, Lucy Marlow, Amanda Blake, Irving Bacon, Hazel Shermet, James Brown
The cliched Hollywood story of a husband forced into second place by his wife's career has been told often, but it almost doesn't matter thanks to Judy's musical genius and a fine cast.
From The Movie Guide: "Judy Garland is at her peak, pulling out al the stops, daring the gods in this dark, weighty fable of the price one pays to be at the top. This version, directed by Cukor, is lent all manner of mythic significance by Garland, teetering on the abyss before the slide. There would be other triumphs in concert, but this is the peak of her film career. Here she finally exposed her powerful dramatic range, coupled with the magnificent singing voice that she pushed further than anyone could imagine. Her genius is attached to an uncomfortable, intense plot that allows reason for the tremulous mannerisms and bottomless, dark eyes. ...
"Director George Cukor previously filmed the story as WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? in 1932. Here he delivers a much more savage film, allowing moments and characters to speak for themselves in a way that gives A STAR IS BORN that much more power. Garland is well matched by Mason, who imbues Norman's hellish descent with a deep sense of self-understanding, a dignified awareness of what is transpiring and ultimate acceptance of fate. And in the scenes of drunkenness, a threatening aura of danger that seems to give him an unhuman kind of vigor and strength. If Mason looks healthier than Garland sometimes, it works. Policing and caretaking an addict takes enormous energy; sometimes the toll is greater on the spouse than the addict themselves. Mason's work on STAR is the equal of any good performance you can name.
"Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin provided Garland with songs that would become standards in her concert repertoire, including the ten-ton torch song, 'The Man That Got Away' (which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song), rendered by Garland with incredible emotional power. Leonard Gershe's classic 'Born in a Trunk' sequence is also one of Garland's finest moments, a near-autobiographical musical sequence that shows the star's rise, incorporating the songs 'I'll Get By,' 'You Took Advantage of Me,''Black Bottom,' 'Peanut Vendor,' 'My Melancholy Baby,' and 'Swanee.' After Garland's Oscar-nominated performance lost to Grace Kelly's amateur thesping in THE COUNTRY GIRL, many in Hollywood felt that she was being punished by her peers for her past troubles, and Groucho Marx sent a telegram to Garland saying that the loss 'was the biggest robbery since Brink's.'
"Warners stupidly cut A STAR IS BORN considerably after its premiere, but Cukor's version was eventually partially restored through the reinsertion of recovered soundtrack with production stills and some alternate takes that had somehow survived, giving the film a continuity that unfeeling hands had removed. Seemingly vindicated, Cukor passed away the night before he was to see his restored film, which reopened in 1983 to enthusiastic crowds. George Hoyningen-Huene consulted on the color --- it's exactly right. If this version is more closely aligned with showbiz tradition than the 1937 version, it works, largely because it underlines the Garland legend. With Jack Carson in a definitive role as a bastard press agent, and Lucy Marlow and Joan Shawlee as putrid starlet and columnist and Tommy Noonan, surprisingly effective as Garland's jazz musician pal, in the best role of his career."
Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Mason), Actress (Garland), Color Costume Design, Color Art Direction, Scoring of a Musical Picture, and Song.
At 176 minutes, this is the "restored" version of the film. For more information about the restoration of the film, consult Ronald Haver's book, A Star is Born: The Making of the 1954 Movie and Its 1983 Reconstruction .Turner Classic Movies showed the TV premiere of the restored CinemaScope version of the film in December 1999.