A Star Is Born 5.0 stars

Star Is Born movie poster

Compared to the Gaga/Cooper remake, this is a masterpiece. A charming, occasionally mean dipsomaniac set on collision course (James Mason) meets and marries a rising starlet (Judy Garland). Song and dance was added to this, the third go-round of the oft-told Hollywood staple. The result: a film that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Howard Hawks’ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as the foremost non-Metro musical of the 1950s. Failing to set the box office ablaze, studio brother Harry Warner — eager to appease exhibitors by squeezing in one extra daily showing — whittled away nearly 30 minutes of the film’s original 181 minute running time, effectively cutting the guts out of Norman and Esther's relationship. Kudos to film historian Ronald Haver for sleuthing out and reinstating 20 minutes of lost footage for the grand scale 1984 re-release. This was old hand director George Cukor’s first feature-length foray into both color and widescreen; sit close to the screen and put your peripheral vision to the test. 1954.

Scott Marks

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