Classics Review: A Star Is Born (1954)

Salutations fellow movie goers from across the globe. Today, we’re going back in time to remember a movie starring Judy Garland (The Wizard Of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis. her collaboration with Mickey Rooney) in a romantic musical drama about a washed up alcoholic actor who begins a relationship with a rising star while both of their careers reflect a scale struggling to balance. The plot I’m referring to is “A Star Is Born.”

A Star Is Born was released in 1954. (same year Godzilla made his big screen debut) It received critical acclaim from critics and movie goers alike. In addition to high praise, the picture made enough money at the box office. The film went on to become an eligible nominee at The 27th Academy Awards for several categories including Best Actress, (Judy Garland) Best Actor, (James Mason) Best Original Song, (The Man That Got Away) etc.

A remake starring Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson came out in 1976. Unlike the original, the film’s theme involves the music industry rather than focusing on motion pictures. Despite earning money at the box office and winning Best Original Song (Evermore) at The 49th Academy Awards, it received mixed reviews from critics.

A remake of a remake starring Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (in his directorial debut) is scheduled to come out in early October around the same time as Tom Hardy’s upcoming Venom movie. Before we get to the nitty gritty, let me break down positive and negative aspects of the original film to see if it still holds up.

Today’s review doesn’t contain any crucial SPOILERS whatsoever. If you’ve never seen this film, feel free to read this non-spoiler article.

Yay & Nay Elements

Yay: Judy Garland did an excellent job for her performance as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester. I have no choice but to give her a bunch of Bonus Points for her acting and singing chops.

James Mason did a good job for his performance.

The Oscar nominated song, “The Man Who Got Away,” serves as the theme song for the film.

Musical Numbers felt decent most obviously the theme song.

Cinematography looked spot on normal without suffering from technical problems throughout.

A character said “anything” twice. Five Decades Later, Mike Myers used that word more than two times in that god awful Cat In The Hat movie. This was the only joke that made me laugh besides Alec Baldwin saying “hippy freak.”

Esther’s stage name “Vicki Lester” sorta inspired the main character Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Boogie Nights to come up with a stage name for Mark Whalberg’s character Eddie Adams changed his to “Dirk Diggler” during his rise to fame.

A Wilhelm Scream is used when Esther/Vicki enters a screening room. Prior to Star Wars, the Wilhelm Scream actually existed.

Chemistry between Esther/Vicki & Norman is arguably the main highlight of the story. As the film progresses, the duo’s relationship grows, it makes you deeply care about them.

Now that we live in The Digital Age, you can skip an Intermission segment with your remote control. If you want to go old school without fast forwarding, so be it.

Sid Luft (Judy’s then real life husband) produced the film.

The line, “I just want to look at you again,” foreshadows what has yet to come.

Even though their love is strong, the irony of the two leads’ careers represents a scale struggling to balance. Esther/Vicki’s career skyrockets while Norman’s drastically declines causing him to go on a downward spiral of drinking.

Actual Oscars statues were used as props. A disclaimer stated that WB asked The Academy permission to use their statues as props.

The Ending, I don’t wanna tell you what happens. If you’ve seen it, you probably understand why.

Nay: Without giving too much away. In an ironic twist, Judy Garland’s character wins an Oscar. In real life, she got snubbed by Grace Kelly after Judy gave birth to her youngest son. OUCH! Talk about “Harsher In Hindsight!”

The film alternates between a slideshow of photographs and actual scenes. I would assume that the produces kinda ran out of money to shoot specific scenes and possibly ordered the cast to record dialogue at an ADR. It felt cheap to see the film suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder losing its identity. Joss Whedon didn’t have to reshoot Justice League relying only on photographs!

The Final Verdict: A-

A Star Is Born is a decent romantic musical drama that’ll keep you entertained with all the positive things listed including Judy Garland & James Mason’s performances, musical numbers, chemistry between the two leads among other elements. If you’ve never seen the original 1954 version, I highly recommend it for those who are excited to see the 2018 remake. Will it be one of the best remakes next to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Jeff Goldblum’s The Fly, James Mangold’s 3:10 To Yuma, & The Coen Brothers’ True Grit? Only time will tell.

Fun Fact: Sean Penn (who’s good friends with Bradley Cooper) went to an early screening for the upcoming 2018 version, he confirmed that this is the best movie he’s ever seen in his life. He’s also passionate about Judy Garland & Barbra Streisand’s performances because he grew up watching their movies as he cites them both as influences as an actor and he wishes both Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga the best of luck. If Judy were alive today, she would’ve given both them tips on what to do or what not to do involving a musical film. The closest thing connected to Judy is Liza Minnelli who approves Bradley & Gaga honoring her late mother.

One thought on “Classics Review: A Star Is Born (1954)

  1. The slideshow of photographs with voice instead of video is where the original director’s cut of the film was deleted as it was felt the film was too long, and they weren’t crucial to the plot.

    However, the audio tracks for these deleted scenes survived until today, so the film was restored using this recovered audio and film stills from the removed video, leaving what you seen here.

    Hope this made things a bit clearer!!


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