Thursday, 28 April 2016

I've Just Seen: A Star is Born (1954)

A Star is Born (1954)

Director: George Cukor

Remakes are not a new phenomenon for Hollywood (though the number of them seems to be!). Cukor's film was adapted from the script of Wellman's 1937 film. While keeps the bare bones of the story, and the names of the characters, it focuses less on the politics of the film business, and more on the character of Esther, and her relationship with Norman.

How Judy Garland didn't win the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in this film, I don't know. We always knew she had an amazing voice, and was solid as an actress, but in Cukor's film she marries these two things beautifully together, and ends up acting James Mason off the screen at some moments. While Janet Gaynor's Esther/ Vicki was likeable, I never felt we really saw a complete demonstration of her often praised acting talents. With Garland, the scene of her singing at the club after-hours showcases her immense talent, and the audience, like Norman, want to see her receive wider recognition. She is also wonderful in the dramatic scenes at the film's end, her pain and grief feels very real.

I enjoyed the film, and felt its similarities to two other films I watched recently: Funny Girl and Coal Miner's Daughter. All three focus on the ascent of incredibly talented women (who can sing), and the effect it has on their relationships with their husbands. I am surprised we haven't seen a newer riff on this story, considering Hollywood's love of recycling.


  1. Oh, we will. Just you wait and see. Even when movies have been so great there is no way to top them Hollywood just cannot help themselves. This was a good movie, my kind of musical, but the shocker is how close Mason's character's story resembles that of Garland's own.

    1. Very true about its resemblance to Garland's life. I wonder if that is what made her performance so good: she knew the type of pain Maine's character goes through, and could sympathise with it.

      I do imagine it would have been a nightmare to shoot (a bit like Some Like It Hot with Marilyn), but the results are great.

  2. I like this version quite a bit. Garland can't help but be compelling and Mason can't help but be great.

    There is a version of this from the 1970s with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (if memory serves). From what I know about it, it's one best avoided.

    1. Thanks for the warning. As much as I love Babs as a screen presence, I doesn't look very promising.

      I think it would be hard not to like this version. We spend so much time with the characters, and they are so charming together, that you really feel sorry for them as it all goes pear-shaped.