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The Flaw in A Star is Born (1954)


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Despite the praise heaped on it, at least by everyone I see who talks about it on TV, I don't find the Garland/Mason edition appealing.  Now, I'm not trying to convince anyone, and I'm not going to lay out a defense of my position.  That's not my point here.  There are a number of drawbacks for me in it.  Notably, and perhaps most importantly from the movie's standpoint, I find it a self-indulgent exercise on the part of George Cukor.  He needed a good producer to rein him in.  The film is over-long, and the efforts to cut it were justified.  Of course, the cutting being done by people having no creative ability whatever, naturally it was butchered.  Crimes can be committed on good works, like The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and not-so-good works.  So because of the offense against it, the natural reverse reaction is to sympathize with the victim, and restore it to its original glory.  After all, the American maxim is the longer, the better (I wonder if I'll ever see a director's cut that's shorter than the original release).

 

But here's the flaw that is most salient to me.  The story of the movie is about a self-destructive actor on the way down, who discovers, and gives a lift to a strong, stable actress on the way up.  But the screen personas of James Mason and Judy Garland conflict with the roles they have.  Mason is calm, unflappable, almost serene.  I never could buy his descent into the abyss.  Judy Garland, on the other hand, is taut, hyper, brittle.  I was always expecting her to be the one to blow up.  It's impossible for me to reconcile the two.  And it works significantly to defeat the movie.

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I kinda know what you mean Slayton.  It's like they both were more acting to "type" than fitting into a certain character.

 

I've never seen every James Mason movie ever made, but going by the ones I have, "calm, unflappable" seems to be his "stock in trade".  So is Judy's "taut, hyper".

 

But Mason managed to make it work for me in that he, like in the GAYNOR/MARCH version, made me completely unsympathetic to his character. 

 

 

Sepiatone

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I can also understand what Slaytonf means by the casting of Garland and Mason.

 

However, both stars give such beautiful performances in the film (this really was the performance of Judy's career, I feel) they both completely win me over.

 

I'm a huge admirer of James Mason, frequently frustrated over the fact that so few of his films from his Hollywood years really gave his acting talents full rein. Norman Maine gave Mason an opportunity to play a character who is charming, severely flawed and vulnerable and he made the most of it (as did Fredric March in his masterful portrayal in the '37 version; as a matter of fact, March's portrayal is the main reason I watch that film).

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But Mason managed to make it work for me in that he, like in the GAYNOR/MARCH version, made me completely unsympathetic to his character. 

 

 

 

Really? Unsympathetic? Norman Maine would be, to put it mildly, a frustrating, maddening person for anyone to know but, ultimately, I regard him as a tragic figure.

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I hear you.

 

A STAR IS BORN (1954) is one of my favorite movies of all time, one of the best movies the 20th century, and contains what I consider to be one of the five best performances ever captured on film (courtesy of Miss Judy Garland.)

 

But over the years that I've been on this message board, believe it or not, I think more people had actually voiced the opinion that they don't care for it than those of us who are LOUD in re: our love it.

 

And I totally get where you're coming from. It is about 45 minutes too long. And that damn scene where Judy dances around the living room for James Mason probably should've hit the floor, even if I LOVE IT to bits and pieces."zer ees a gurl, surching surching..."

 

It's not a simple film, but it is a film that has a tremendous amount of meaning for me on all sorts of levels, not only because it reminds me of my time living in Hollywood, but also because it's a film that speaks deeply to anyone who's ever had to live with or love anyone who struggled with substance abuse issues.

 

The scene where Judy breaks down in her dressing room in re: how it makes her feel every time Norman falls off the wagon ( "I HATE MYSELF AND I HATE HIM TOO!") moves me so much that I'm honestly getting a little bit broken up talking about it right now....

 

(Even if in real life the roles were opposite, there's no denying truth and understanding lies at the heart of this movie.)

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I never said I thought he wasn't a tragic figure, but the character was so steeped in self pity that he pushed away and caused the greatest pain for the ONLY person it seemed, that truly loved HIM, and NOT what he used to BE.

 

 

Sepiatone

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I can agree with all points made. It's not my favorite movie, either. But I just love Judy's performance. I also love Fredric March's performance in the earlier version, while Janet Gaynor leaves me cold.

 

The magic in the scene where Judy sings "The Man That Got Away" and the quiet touching scene on the stairs where Judy forgets she's "miked" both really help propel this overlong melodrama.

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I can agree with all points made. It's not my favorite movie, either. But I just love Judy's performance. I also love Fredric March's performance in the earlier version, while Janet Gaynor leaves me cold.

 

The magic in the scene where Judy sings "The Man That Got Away" and the quiet touching scene on the stairs where Judy forgets she's "miked" both really help propel this overlong melodrama.

 

Yup, The Man That Got Away is one of those magical moments on film, in which the essence of Garland as a performer was captured. I can't think of another Garland number on film that has the same impact upon me.

 

And, like you, Tiki, Janet Gaynor leaves me cold in the '37 version, while I marvel at Fredric March. I've always found it a bit ironic, though, that this actor gave one of his most charming performances playing a character who was self destructive. But the charm was necessary to show, glimpses of Maine at his best, to make the audience feel all the more the tragedy of his gradual decline.

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Yup, The Man That Got Away is one of those magical moments on film, in which the essence of Garland as a performer was captured. I can't think of another Garland number on film that has the same impact upon me.

 

And, like you, Tiki, Janet Gaynor leaves me cold in the '37 version, while I marvel at Fredric March. I've always found it a bit ironic, though, that this actor gave one of his most charming performances playing a character who was self destructive. But the charm was necessary to show, glimpses of Maine at his best, to make the audience feel all the more the tragedy of his gradual decline.

 

The Man That Got Away is my favorite musical number.   It really reminds me of a few late night sessions I attended after becoming friends with some jazz band members.   (and while these musicians were first rate,  we never had anyone close to Garland as a singer).     Just magical.

 

Funny but while channel flipping I saw the same Streisand musical number in her version of A Star is Born (same as related to the plot);   Ok,  I'm not a fan of that style of music being a jazz musician and all,   but to me that scene had no magic and was just flat.

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