A musical remake of the classic 1937 film of the same name, A Star is Born was designed as Judy Garland's comeback vehicle after she had been cruelly axed by MGM studios for professional unreliability. Her erratic moods caused serious production delays this time around, too, but the behind-the-scenes turmoil was certainly worth it--Garland gives just about the greatest one-woman show in movie history. The story is the stuff of pure Hollywood legend. Aspiring actress-singer Esther Blodgett meets fading matinee idol Norman Maine (James Mason), who navigates her to stardom under the more melodious handle of Vickie Lester. As she rises meteorically, he declines into alcoholic self-pity--and the result, if you haven't guessed, is plenty of heartbreak. Mason lends subtle support in a role Cary Grant refused as too downbeat for his image, but Garland grabs centre stage with an all-out emotional performance that rivets the attention.
Director George Cukor was famous for coaxing the very best out of screen divas, and A Star is Born must be counted as his crowning achievement. The lush visual style that he contributes provides a suitable setting for Garland's deep, rich voice--throbbing with melancholy in the Harold Arlen-Ira Gershwin ballad "The Man That Got Away", then capering joyfully in the gargantuan musical number "Born in a Trunk". Moss Hart's script takes many cynical swipes at the pretensions of Tinsel Town--perhaps too many for the taste of studio boss Jack Warner, who ordered drastic cuts in the film after its premiere.
Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson