A Star is Born (1954)

Dir. George Cukor
Starring: Judy Garland, James Mason, etc.

I would recommend this to Penny. I think Grace, Mitchell and maybe Jill would like this. Kevin and Chris would find this interesting, but I would guess they really wouldn’t be into it. I’d guess Marc, Don, John and Joel would just think this was alright, not really worth watching. I did not care for this film initially, but I was hooked by the end of it. A deserving pick for the 1001 book.

This is a musical I liked mainly for reasons other than the singing/dancing/songs. Garland plays a club singer, Esther Blodgett, who is spotted by a popular actor, Norman Maine (Mason). Maine sees her talent and urges her to quit her job and take a chance in Hollywood. The film chronicles her rise to stardom and her relationship with Maine. There are also two other versions of this film, one made in 1937 and the other in 1976, starring Bette Midler.

*** (spoilers)
My expectations sank during the first forty-five minutes. For one thing, I was not really impressed with Judy Garland. Yes, Garland is a famous star, but my personal reaction to her singing was lukewarm. I also thought the songs or the dance numbers were OK at best. But then the songs did get a little better and the sets and dance sequences got more interesting. I liked the film-within-a-film sequence which told the Esther’s actual rise to stardom. The dance number with Garland and Mason at home was also fun and inventive.

But there were other aspects that really began drawing me into the film. First, I liked the way the film depicted the way Hollywood creates and manages its stars. I was a bit surprised by the less than flattering depiction. Second, the film, for me, turned into an effective drama/tragedy—which surprised me. I was expecting a bad end for Norman (Mason), but I was surprised how much it affected me; credit James Mason and Garland for their performances, although at times their acting seemed affected. When Norman interrupts Esther’s acceptance speech, I was mortified, but mainly my heart broke for Norman. I can’t think of any other musicals that are dramatic–not to mention tragic. The film deserves attention for that alone. The fact that it is well-done

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