When I heard this was happening I jumped at the chance to watch A Star is Born (1954) which of course most of us know is one of Judy’s greatest performances.
For me, watching this movie has been a long time coming, as Judy has always been a favorite of mine; she’s my childhood idol. The only thing I regret is I didn’t start watching more of her movies until recently, as an adult- never when I was younger; but it’s better late than never!
A Star is Born is of course a remake of the 1937 Mitzi Gaynor/ Fredric March film. I have not seen the original yet- but I plan to watch it, as well as the 1976 version too (my Mom has seen the latter one). This 1954 version is the same story as all of the versions but what makes it unique is that this is a musical- which of course works so well to showcase Judy’s talents.
The story is a typical Hollywood story- while Judy’s character, Esther Blodgett “Vicki Lester” rises and shines, her fellow actor and love interest (later husband) Norman Maine (James Mason) downward spirals and falls hard.
Overall, the film is a bit of a sad story, but a very real and human story, that holds its value in today’s world. It may be being remade again for the fourth time- but I believe that this particular version will forever be the most remembered and celebrated version. When viewing the film, I quickly learned part of its footage is missing due to the fact its original length was trimmed down in previews. Today- its been restored to the best of its abilities. In certain instances there are still images, accompanied with the audio track to fill in where the footage was deleted- its interesting to see what was cut- as the cut footage was somewhat important to understanding the story- its sad no one will ever see the original footage, as it would have been cool to see it all in full.
In my view, Judy shines in her role and its as if she was born for the part- she plays it so believably- whether she’s singing and performing, or happily in love, or crying- shes always authentic; never ever fake. When watching it, my mom brought up the fact she’s just such a real actor and when she cries (or has an emotional moment) – you feel for her.
But what makes this particular role so believable is that many experiences that happen to Ester also happened to Judy- the name change, working the bit parts, the hard efforts of landing a big break, the emotional struggles of being a star- and sometimes, it hits all too hard knowing that Norman Maine’s struggles were basically her struggles in real life.
But all emotional and real life parallels aside, this film gave Judy two of her most wonderful performances- the opening Gotta Have Me Go With You” number and of course my personal (and probably yours too) favorite The Man That Got Away. There’s of course a few other numbers- but these two stand out to me on a major level.
“Gotta Have Me Go With You” is standard Garland- its showy without being over the top- it’s very catchy and easy to sing along with- its a wonderful way to start of this movie and it has become on of my favorite musical numbers of hers.
“The Man That Got Away”, on the other hand is top tier, brilliance- its powerful; emotional; and so amazing that you want to go back and re-watch it due to its strong presence- I had seen the clip before I watched this film, but watching it in context within the film makes it all that much more moving. I really cant describe it any other way- other than its just sheer perfection.
In the end, I’m very glad I watched this film- I felt it got a bit slow at times- but its just so memorable of a story that I’ll certainly be watching it again the future, it must have been so fascinating to have seen in back in 1954~ with the big build up of Judy’s return to the screen- she really gave it her all. While Judy’s star story may not have ended on the best note- its certain today- her star shines brighter than ever- and it will forever remain that way.