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Teresa Pinkston

Black and White Stills in A Star is Born with Judy Garland??

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I watched this movie last night, and also heard the tidbits before the film that gives insight and backstory to the making of the film. I loved this movie so much, especially Judy singing her signature song, " The Man that Got Away". I was stunned when all of a sudden a black and white still picture came on the screen with audio playing. After a short while, the movie continued, only to frequently go back to still pictures. 

I couldn't believe that the movies was edited and shown this way. I searched google about it, and someone said that parts of the film were accidentally edited out because of run time. The film should be shown as is, without trying to insert still pictures to try and capture those parts, that weren't even important to the story.

I don't understand why that wasn't mentioned in the talk before the movie was aired- that was important information to know so that you would be expecting that and not be completely blindsided.

I lost interest in following the movie, that just ruined it for me. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There was nothing "accidental" about it. The film was cut by the studio against Cukor's wishes because of run time issues. The cut footage was lost, so the restored version of the film shows some stills, as those are the only images remaining. I saw this film before it was restored, and it was almost incomprehensible because of the cuts. The modern additions at least help maintain the continuity.

 

http://www.thejudyroom.com/asib/restoration.html

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Thank you for posting this, Suzy-Q. This explains everything. I would have loved to see the film before the cuts as you were able to do. 

I recorded the movie, so I will go back and watch the whole thing. I do think that if TCM shows it again, it would be extremely helpful for them to mention this before it is aired.

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This isn’t the first movie I’ve seen that’s been restored this way. It would be nice if there was a disclaimer of some sort before the movie airs though. I learned about the restoration using stills because I’ve gotten into the habit of going to IMDB on my tablet to learn the trivia. Most of the lost footage for Star is Born was found but not all of it so stills were used. 

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There is. There’s a printed explanation of the restoration and why the lost footage is replaced with stills where the soundtrack exists but the picture doesn’t. It precedes the opening credits, unless someone leaves it out which i don’t think would happen on TCM. 

Ive seen it both ways and the picture really is better with the “lost” footage restored. Mr Cukor complained that they cut out the key early romance scenes between Judy and James and managed to cut the “heart” from the picture. Maybe if it had remained, Judy might have won the Oscar?

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I happened to tune in to TCM's recent broadcast part way through and had never seen the film before. So when the stills started, I thought it might be a stylistic choice (like in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). It didn't take long for me to realize that the film had been altered but it caught me off guard at first.

I wonder, by the way, were all the photos taken on black and white film originally or just made b&w or sepia for consistency? Weren't they taking color stills on movies sets by the 50's?

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I think b&w production photos were the norm up through the 70s. Color film was still pretty slow in the 50s, plus most print news and magazines were b&w. But also, i think the b&w photos are a stylistic choice to clearly differentiate the stills from the film as an added restoration element.

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Well, I was wrong. I just saw the on-demand version of Star Is Born on TCM and the introductory text explaining the restored scenes is nowhere to be seen. This seems to be true on Amazon streaming as well, leaving uninformed viewers extremely perplexed, understandably. Warner really should do something about this. Inserting stills without an explanation doesn’t do the film any favors.

OTOH, I haven’t seen the film for a while, and golly does it look, and sound, glorious! There must have been a new high-def restoration recently. BUT the cut scenes and their partial restoration needs to be explained to viewers!

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The original movie ran 3 hours, which meant it cost theaters at least one showing a day.  They didn't want to lose the revenue and complained to the studio, which is why the movie was chopped by nearly 30 minutes.  The original run time was 182 minutes and was hailed by critics; the re-edit ran 154 minutes and was panned. The re-edit cost Garland her Oscar.

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I have run into this on several of my DVD's that are advertised as "restored director's cuts." They replace "lost footage" (scenes that were edited out by the studios post-production) with stills, grainy footage, or black screen & audio. I have become used to it, but it was startling at first. Two conflicting thoughts on this: it is historically interesting to see what the director wanted, but it is not the historical film that the public saw and reacted to. Artistically, it shows what was intended, but it lessens the value of the film as a cultural document and can distort the view of the impact the film had in its time.    

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Thanks for all the explanations of the still photos w/audio in a Star Is Born and for the discussion of edited scenes.  I would love to see a "restoration" of the Wizard of Oz with its edited scenes placed back into the movie (i.e. the Jitterbug scene).  I have that scene in an anniversary edition of the Wizard of Oz but it is shown as an out take after the end of the movie.

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If you buy or rent A Star is Born you will get a real treat! As one of the extras, there are multiple takes of Garland performing The Man Who Got Away which IMHO is one of the best if not the best filmed vocal performance! Just watch Garland emote its truly amazing! What a great loss to music and film!

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Btw... A Star Is Born is an example of the downside of the studio system. Why they didn’t keep a complete roadshow edition I’ll never know! Another example was Touch Of Evil but luckily they kept the footage and had all Orson Welles notes so its been fully restored!

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On 7/5/2018 at 12:22 PM, phillyfilmbuff said:

Btw... A Star Is Born is an example of the downside of the studio system. Why they didn’t keep a complete roadshow edition I’ll never know! Another example was Touch Of Evil but luckily they kept the footage and had all Orson Welles notes so its been fully restored!

And even if you keep a complete edition, film naturally starts to deteriorate.  I didn't realize the negatives for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were nitrate. Jeez Louise.  

Some preservation information:  

"Thousands of pre-1951 movies captured on volatile nitrate film are kept in frigid, low-humidity vaults in a modest cinderblock building owned by the George Eastman House Museum on the piney outskirts of Rochester. Cold storage saves them from rotting away within a lifetime or, worse yet, burning up.

In most cases, these are original camera negatives from the first half-century of motion pictures, classics such as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," the silent era's top-grossing "Big Parade," Lon Chaney in "The Phantom of the Opera" and Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 version of "The Ten Commandments."

While even the best-kept vintage reels are starting to buckle with age, a beloved movie's master negative is a sacred object that would cost untold millions to replace."

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3 hours ago, Pastiche said:

And even if you keep a complete edition, film naturally starts to deteriorate.  I didn't realize the negatives for Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were nitrate. Jeez Louise.  

Some preservation information:  

"Thousands of pre-1951 movies captured on volatile nitrate film are kept in frigid, low-humidity vaults in a modest cinderblock building owned by the George Eastman House Museum on the piney outskirts of Rochester. Cold storage saves them from rotting away within a lifetime or, worse yet, burning up.

In most cases, these are original camera negatives from the first half-century of motion pictures, classics such as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," the silent era's top-grossing "Big Parade," Lon Chaney in "The Phantom of the Opera" and Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 version of "The Ten Commandments."

While even the best-kept vintage reels are starting to buckle with age, a beloved movie's master negative is a sacred object that would cost untold millions to replace."

Yes but Star is Born was 1954 and they should have kept what they cut. It was stupid and they for all intents and purposes ruined the continuity. It was disrespectful to Cukor IMHO. 

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On 7/6/2018 at 11:11 PM, phillyfilmbuff said:

Yes but Star is Born was 1954 and they should have kept what they cut. It was stupid and they for all intents and purposes ruined the continuity. It was disrespectful to Cukor IMHO. 

Even nitrate's replacement after 1951, acetate, degrades over time.   Polyester stock supposedly will last a century or more if properly stored.   The real headache now is preserving digital.  

The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence:

"Maintaining such a [physical film] facility isn’t cheap. And as chemical film stock becomes obsolete, along with the techniques used to create and manipulate it, relying on a film-based archive will only grow more difficult and more costly....

And how much does it cost to migrate from one LTO format to the next?  [LTO: magnetic tape storage technology used to preserve films; LTO stands for linear tape-open]. USC’s Everett cited a recent project to restore the 1948 classic The Red Shoes. “It was archived on LTO-3,” Everett says. “When LTO-5 came out, the quote was US $20,000 to $40,000 just to migrate it.” Now that the film is on LTO-5, it will soon have to be migrated again, to LTO-7...

... the frequency of LTO upgrades has film archivists over a barrel. Already there have been seven generations of LTO in the 18 years of the product’s existence, and the LTO Consortium, which includes Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, and Quantum, has a road map that specifies generations 8, 9, and 10. Given the short period of backward compatibility—just two generations—an LTO-5 cartridge, which can still be read on an LTO-7 drive, won’t be readable on an LTO-8 drive. So even if that tape is still free from defects in 30 or 50 years, all those gigabytes or terabytes of data will be worthless if you don’t also have a drive upon which to play it....

For a large film archive, data migration costs can easily run into the millions. A single LTO-7 cartridge goes for about $115, so an archive that needs 50,000 new cartridges will have to shell out $5.75 million, or perhaps a little less with volume discounts.....

Steven Anastasi, vice president of global media archives and preservation services at Warner Bros., therefore puts the practical lifetime of an LTO cartridge at approximately 7 years. Before that time elapses, you must migrate to a newer generation of LTO because, of course, it takes time to move the data from one format to the next.  And archivists are compelled to maintain and service each new generation of LTO drive along with preserving the LTO cartridges...

Meanwhile, the motion-picture studios are churning out content at an ever-increasing rate. The head of digital archiving at one major studio, who asked not to be identified, told me that it costs about $20,000 a year to digitally store one feature film and related assets such as deleted scenes and trailers. All told, the digital components of a big-budget feature can total 350 TB.  Storing a single episode of a high-end hour-long TV program can cost $12,000 per year. Major studios like Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony, and Warner each have archives of tens of thousands of TV episodes and features, and they’re adding new titles all the time...

When Pixar wanted to release its 2003 film Finding Nemo for Blu-ray 3D in 2012, the studio had to rerender the film to produce the 3D effects. The studio by then was no longer using the same animation software system, and it found that certain aspects of the original could not be emulated in its new software.... 

"If technology companies don’t come through with a long-term solution, it’s possible that humanity could lose a generation’s worth of filmmaking, or more. Here’s what that would mean. Literally tens of thousands of motion pictures, TV shows, and other works would just quietly cease to exist at some point in the foreseeable future. The cultural loss would be incalculable because these works have significance beyond their aesthetics and entertainment value. They are major markers of the creative life of our time."

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On 7/5/2018 at 1:19 PM, phillyfilmbuff said:

If you buy or rent A Star is Born you will get a real treat! As one of the extras, there are multiple takes of Garland performing The Man Who Got Away which IMHO is one of the best if not the best filmed vocal performance! Just watch Garland emote its truly amazing! What a great loss to music and film!

Not to be a downer, but I was a bit disappointed when I realized that the vocal track for all of those alternate takes was the same one, the one also used in the completed film. Judy was performing to her own prerecorded track several times until they got the scene the way they liked it. Her sync is so perfect that it looks totally spontaneous every time. But, it’s not a discovery of alternate audio takes of her singing that great song. Fascinating to watch all the same.

You probably knew this all along, but it took me a little while figure it out.

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The info about digital formats is very concerning!

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And to decide which films are worth preserving, too. (Would you pay thousands of dollars to preserve, say, Waterworld?)

 

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3 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

And to decide which films are worth preserving, too. (Would you pay thousands of dollars to preserve, say, Waterworld?)

Right.  This is addressed in the article I quoted before (sorry if I'm going long on this, but having worked in film/tape archives most of my career, I see preservation as a big deal.  There's a lot of focus on the front end of creating a film, but the back end of saving the product is also important, increasingly so as it becomes more unstable, physically and financially.) 

"Warner also began classifying its 8,000 feature films and 5,000 TV shows into two categories: those it will “manage”—that is, preserve for the long term—and those it deems “perishable.” Managed assets include not just the finished work but also marketing materials and some deleted scenes. Perishable material may include dailies for features or unused footage; it will be stored for some time in the archive but may not be migrated. To decide what’s perishable and what’s not, the studio considers things like how successful the film has been, how popular its stars are, and whether the film could have enduring (or cult) appeal.

The manage-or-perish scheme is by no means perfect, Anastasi admits, but he sees it as buying the studio a little time until a truly long-term digital storage technology comes along. If one ever does.

Everett says Warner’s strategic thinking about digital archiving is pioneering. All of the studios, he notes, “are in a realm where there is no policy.” Meanwhile, they’re waiting for an archival technology that is better than LTO. “Originally, we went all digital because it’s so much cheaper,” Everett notes. “But is it? Really? We haven’t solved the storage problem.”

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