A Star is Born (1954)

<strong class="MovieTitle">A Star is Born</strong> (1954)

(On Cable TV, December 2018) I know that many people consider the 1954 version of A Star is Born to be the definitive take on the story, Judy Garland elevating the material in a way that’s not harmed by the rough edges of the 1937 version or Streisand’s invasive influence on the 1976 remake. But… I beg to differ, largely on the strength of the argument that I don’t like Judy Garland all that much. Still, it’s worth acknowledging that this 1954 version, as directed by George Cukor, is a much slicker version of the previous take on the film—the budget is clearly there, and the film can be lavish in the way it shows the nature of stardom in the mid-1950s. Alas, this indulgence also makes the film longer and duller with every full-length musical number stopping the film dead in its track. The 1983 re-edit of the film, which attempts to incorporate cut sequences with a mixture of audio and still pictures, is not as good as it sounds—I probably would have liked the unaltered 1954 version a bit better. This being said, I quite liked James Mason in the male lead role, as he captures the mixture of arrogance and vulnerability that the part requires. Meanwhile, superstar Garland sings well, but looks twenty years older than she should. While the film leans heavily in its musical genre, it does keep enough of Hollywood to bridge the gap between the all-movies 1937 version and the all-music 1976/2018 versions—and the look at 1950s Hollywood is simply fascinating.

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