A Star Is Born

( 10 )

Overview

The 1954 musical remake of A Star is Born could have been titled A Star is Reborn, in that it represented the triumphal return to the screen of Judy Garland after a four-year absence. The remake adheres closely to the plotline of the 1937 original: An alcoholic film star, on his last professional legs, gives a career boost to a unknown aspiring actress. The two marry, whereupon her fame and fortune rises while his spirals sharply downward. Unable to accept this, the male star crawls deeper into the bottle. The ...
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Overview

The 1954 musical remake of A Star is Born could have been titled A Star is Reborn, in that it represented the triumphal return to the screen of Judy Garland after a four-year absence. The remake adheres closely to the plotline of the 1937 original: An alcoholic film star, on his last professional legs, gives a career boost to a unknown aspiring actress. The two marry, whereupon her fame and fortune rises while his spirals sharply downward. Unable to accept this, the male star crawls deeper into the bottle. The wife tearfully decides to give up her own career to care for her husband. To spare her this fate, the husband chivalrously commits suicide. His wife is inconsolable at first, but is urged to go "on with the show" in memory of her late husband. In the original, Janet Gaynor played Esther Blodgett, who with no training or contacts came to Hollywood hoping for stardom. The remake, scripted by Moss Hart, is a shade more realistic: Garland's Esther, though far removed from fame, is a working professional singer/dancer when first we meet her. Both Gaynor and Garland are transformed from "Esther Blodgett" to "Vicki Lester" after being screen-tested, though Gaynor goes on to star in fluffy costume dramas while Garland more logically headlines big-budget musicals. The 1937 Star is Born costarred Fredric March as Norman Maine, Esther/Vicki's sponsor-cum-spouse. March patterned his performance after the tragic John Barrymore, reining in his emotions in favor of pure technique; James Mason's interpretation is more original, more emotional, and far more effective who can forget the scene where Norman sobbingly overhears Vicki planning to give up her career for his sake? As the studio's long-suffering publicist, the 1937 version's Lionel Stander is more abrasive and unpleasant than the 1954 version's introspective, intellectual Jack Carson; on the other hand, Adolphe Menjou and Charles Bickford are fairly evenly matched in the role of the studio head. Several important omissions are made in the remake. The 1937 Star is Born included Esther's indomitable old grandma May Robson, a helpful assistant director Andy Devine and a soft-hearted landlord Edgar Kennedy; all three characters are missing from the 1954 version, though elements of each can be found in the "best friend/severest critic" character played by Tommy Noonan. Wisely, both versions end with the grieving Vicki Lester coming out of her shell at a public gathering, greeting the audience with a proud, defiant "Good evening, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine." Though directors William Wellman 1937 version and George Cukor 1954 version handle this finale in their own distinctive manners, the end result is equally effective emotionally. What truly sets the 1954 A Star is Born apart from other films of its ilk is its magnificent musical score by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. The songs include "The Man Who Got Away" brilliantly performed by Garland in one long take, sans dubbing, "It's a New World," "Somewhere There's a Someone," "I Was Born in a Trunk," "Lose That Long Face" and "Gotta Have Me Go With You." When originally previewed in 1954, the film ran well over three hours, thanks to the lengthy-and thoroughly disposable-"Born in a Trunk" number, added to the film as an afterthought without the approval or participation of director George Cukor. The Warner Bros. executives trimmed the film to 154 minutes, eliminating three top-rank musical numbers and several crucial expository sequences including Norman's proposal to Vicki. At the instigation of the late film historian Ronald Haver, the full version was painstakingly restored in 1983, with outtakes and still photos bridging the "lost" footage. Though nominated in several categories, A Star is Born was left empty-handed at Academy Award time, an oversight that caused outrage then and still rankles Judy Garland fans to this day Footnote: Judy Garland had previously played Vicki Lester in a 1942 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the original A Star is Born.
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Special Features

Deleted scenes and alternate filmings of four musical numbers and one dramatic sequence; Over an hour of rare recording session music and a vintage radio show; Plus, hollywood premiere telecast and newsreel; 1954 Studio exhibitor reel and expanded post-premiere coconut grove party footage; Trailers of all three a star is born versions and more!
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Richard Gilliam
The 1954 A Star is Born had better music than the 1937 original, but that's about all that viewers may agree on in assessing one version against the other. On the downside, the music added about an hour to the running time. The film was re-cut and shortened by studio executives after release. Despite the efforts of restoration experts, there are today no complete prints of the original release version. Judy Garland benefits from the increased emphasis on her character, and the film is far more of a star vehicle for her than was the original for Janet Gaynor. To make room for the songs, several supporting characters from the 1937 version were eliminated. The result is a film that, despite the increased length, has less story-telling richness, though the deficiency is compensated by Garland's superb performance. The film was not among the Oscar nominees for Best Picture, though it did receive six other nominations, including for Garland, James Mason, and "The Man That Got Away" as Best Song.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 6/22/2010
  • UPC: 883929096749
  • Original Release: 1954
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Home Video
  • Presentation: Remastered / Special Edition / Restored
  • Sound: DTS 5.1-Channel Surround Sound
  • Time: 2:56:00
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Sales rank: 15,726

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Judy Garland Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester
James Mason Norman Maine
Jack Carson Matt Libby
Charles Bickford Oliver Niles
Tommy Noonan Danny McGuire
Lucy Marlow Lola Lavery
Amanda Blake Susan Ettinger
Irving Bacon Graves
Hazel Shermet Libby's Secretary
James Brown Glenn Williams
Lotus Robb Miss Markham
Laurindo Almeida Guitarist
Rudolph Anders
Phil Arnold
Nadene Ashdown Esther at age 6
Willis B. Bouchey Director
Chick Chandler Man in Car
Tristram Coffin Director
Samuel Colt Men at Race Track
Rex Evans Master of Ceremonies
Frank Ferguson Judge
Bess Flowers
Wilton Graff Master of Ceremonies--Last Scene
Charles Halton
Jack Harmon 1st Dancer
Stuart Holmes Spectator
Joseph Mell Studio Employee
Pat O'Malley
Leonard Penn
Frank Puglia Bruno
Grandon Rhodes Producer
Emerson Treacy Justice of the Peace
Charles Watts Harrison
Eric Wilton Valet
Joan Shawlee Announcer
Dub Taylor Driver
Louis Jean Heydt Director
Kathryn Card Landlady
Grady Sutton Carver
Richard Webb Wallace
Henry Kulky Cuddles
Olin Howard Charley
Percy Helton Charley
Mae Marsh Party Guest
Strother Martin
John Saxon Premiere Movie Usher
Technical Credits
George Cukor Director
Gene Allen Production Designer
Vern Alves Associate Producer
Harold Arlen Score Composer
Richard Barstow Choreography
Gordon Bau Makeup
Malcolm C. Bert Art Director
Folmar Blangsted Editor
Robert Carson Original Story
David Forrest Sound/Sound Designer
Ira Gershwin Score Composer
Moss Hart Screenwriter
Ray Heindorf Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Craig Holt Editor
George James Hopkins Set Decoration/Design
H.F. Koenekamp Special Effects
Charles Lang Sound/Sound Designer
Sam Leavitt Cinematographer
Jean Louis Costumes/Costume Designer
Sidney Luft Producer
Mary Ann Nyberg Costumes/Costume Designer
Irene Sharaff Costumes/Costume Designer, Production Designer
Michael Woulfe Costumes/Costume Designer
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Menu

Disc #1 -- Star Is Born
   Special Features
      Introduction
      The Man That Got Away Deleted Scenes
         Play All
         Pink Blouse
         Brown Dress #1
         Brown Dress #2
         Brown Dress #3
         Brown Dress #4
      Alternate Takes
         Play All
         Here's What I'm Here For
         Lose That Long Face
         Trinidad Coconut Oil Shampoo
         Norman Maine's Finale
      When My Sugar Walks Down the Street Outtake
      Film Effects Reel
      A Report By Jack L Warner
      Huge Premiere Hails a Star is Born Newsreel Montage
      A Star is Born Premiere In Cinemascope
      Pantages Premiere TV Special
      A Star is Bored
      Audio Vault
         Play All
         Oliver On the Phone With the Director Discussing Norman Outtake
         Norman and Esther on the Roof of the Hotel Lancaster Outtake
         12/28/1942 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast
         Judy Garland Promotional
         Recording Sessions
            Born In a Trunk Rehearsal
            Someone at Last Rehearsal
            Someone at Last Extended Playback
            My Melancholy Baby
            Black Bottom
            Swanee
      Theatrical Trailers
         Play All
         A Star is Born (1937)
         A Star is Born (1954)
         A Star is Born (1976)
   Languages
      Spoken Languages
         English
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    BENNIE QUINCY SHAFT SAYS ... I MADE A MISTAKE. THE CORRECTION:

    BENNIE QUINCY SHAFT SAYS ... I MADE A MISTAKE.

    THE CORRECTION:
    GRACE KELLY'S OSCAR WAS FOR, "THE COUNTRY GIRL," NOT FOR, "HIGH NOON." MS. KELLY'S ACTING IN, "THE COUNTRY GIRL," WAS OUTSTANDING. SHE DESERVED THAT ACADEMY AWARD.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2013

    BENNIE QUINCY SHAFT SAYS ... OUTSTANDING! WOW! This is one grea

    BENNIE QUINCY SHAFT SAYS ... OUTSTANDING!

    WOW! This is one great movie. We originally had the 1983 restoration on VHS-HIFI, and, while the sound was excellent, the picture left much to be desired on a 27 inch screen. Let's fast forward to this BD release, based on a further, smaller restoration in 1999. The BD picture is, of course, much, much better, with a sharp, crisp image that has NOT been DNRed. Thus, it still has a film "look," complete with the grain that film should have. On a 50 inch HDTV, the wide screen image is spectacular. The sound is even better than it was on that old tape, very clear, with the songs, especially, just blowing the viewer away.

    Warner Brothers should be commended for this restoration and for this BD. VERY WELL DONE!

    As for the film itself, I can add virtually nothing more to the praise that I've read here. The performance of Judy Garland was stunning. Her, "The Man That Got Away," sequence has to be seen to be believed. How Grace Kelly beat out Judy Garland for the 1954 Best Actress Oscar is beyond me. I've seen, "High Noon," and my vote goes to Judy Garland.

    Buy this BD.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    A STAR IS BORN Revisited.

    In 1954 Elia Kazan filmed his landmark realistic drama ON THE WATERFRONT. It won Oscars for Marlon Brando as Best Actor, Karl Malden as Best Supporting Actor, Eva Marie Saint as Best Supporting Actress and a host of others. The Best Actress Oscar went to the future Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly for her attempt at drabness in the black and white and mostly gray THE COUNTRY GIRL.

    George Cukor's musical drama A STAR IS BORN, a re-make of a 1930's weeper without music, was not even nominated for Best Film. But there was a real race between Kelly and Judy Garland who played Esther Blodget/Vicki Lester, the lead character in A STAR IS BORN. Garland had been fired by MGM at the end of the previous decade after starring in a string of classic musicals, particularly THE WIZARD OF OZ and MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS. Her personal demons, including her bouts with alcohol and drug abuse, had diminished her physically and emotionally, but by 1953 Garland was ready to attempt a screen comeback. The difficulties with the shoot are legendary, but the result is a screen classic.

    Using the American Songbook and new songs by Ira Gershwin and , Cukor developed a sharp, almost despairing look at the corrosive star-making and star-breaking studio system that had dominated Hollywood since its inception. James Mason plays Norman Maine, an alcoholic matinee star whose best days are behind him. He discovers Esther Blodgett and helps turn her into a new musical super star Vicki Lester.
    Garland's musical numbers are among the finest in film history and run the gamut from "Sewanee" to the torch classic "The Man Who Got Away."
    Mason's performance may be his finest in a great career. Beneath his cocky, handsome demeanor is a shell of man who knows he is beyond hope.
    There are also sharp performances from Jack Carson and Charles Bickford.
    A STAR IS BORN is full of drama, great singing, and the best performances Garland and Mason ever gave.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Powerful Musical Drama

    Here is a film that still takes one by surprise if you only know Garland from her sunny childhood roles like Dorothy...It has drama, tragedy, some good musical numbers...and a very interesting history. Thirty minutes of song and story have been shoehorned back in, and none of it seems expendable. Just compare this to lovely Grace Kelly's close-but-no-cigar Oscar winning turn in COUNTRY GIRL...there is little doubt for her fans that Judy was 'robbed'.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Judy Garlands "Come-Back"!

    This movie, while it has its flaws, shines most of the way through. Its not a happy-go-lucky musical by any means, so don't expect it to be. Its tragic. But there are stand-out scenes such as some of Esther's stage performances and of course the wonderful screen moment of Judy singing "The Man That Got Away" in an empty club. It gives me chills every time and is worth buying the dvd for ALONE.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 10 Customer Reviews