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A Star is Born

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mrsl
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A Star is Born

Postby mrsl » June 19th, 2010, 10:59 pm

.
First off I want to quote a Jack Carson line from about 15 minutes into the beginning of the film -- "Mr. Mains' charm escapes me, it always has." I would however change the name to 'Mr. Mason'. I don't find James Mason the least sexy or attractive, and certainly not alluring to a young girl, whether she be Ester Blodgetts' age or Lolita (even less).

Secondly, I find this movie nothing but a showcase for Judy to sing. She barely did any acting except when she was singing with her hand and arm movements, and facial grimaces. Don't get me wrong, I love to listen to her, but near the end of her career she was just trying too hard. Her singing was amazing in this so I'm not knocking it, but she must have had a weight problem during filming. Did anyone else notice how, when she had a little more weight on her, she looks just like Liza?

Other things also confuse me. I didn't see the great Hollywood career rise and fall as promised. The guy drank - Why? Was he just spoiled by his money and fame, or was there something deeper? Why was Ester so eager for someone to love? She left home on her own to pursue a career, and it seems like that Tom was always around for her, so why the need to be in love? I guess I seem hard but having been married to two men with mental problems, I've seen how they handled them. My first who slapped me around all the time, broke ribs and sprained wrists was always lovey and soooooooo sorry and it would never happen again (Ha, ha, ha). Then second hubby was told to quit drinking or he would lose the happy life he and I had carved out - - so . . . . he quite drinking. My first son is a remake of his father, but the second son is just like his stepfather, steadfast, honest, and cautious. Norman Main was just a man who cried for help, but when he got it, he turned his back on it every time. Drowning himself was just the final piece of cowardice. Again he left Vicki holding the bag, and she, poor idiot, took it.

I think with a John Ford type of director, this could have been a much better movie. I could be prejudiced because of Mason, but the only other choice I have is the original squeaky Janet Gaynor, and greasy Frederick March. I saw the 1976 version with Barbra and Kris, but that was long ago and I barely remember it, plus, Kris was just starting to act, and he wasn't really good at it yet, besides the part was supposed to be for Elvis. Altogether, this is a very dark movie. There is very little happiness in it, and altho I know it is an anthology of a Hollywood marriage, I think a little charm and fun should have been included.
.
Anne


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Uncle Stevie
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Re: A Star is Born

Postby Uncle Stevie » June 20th, 2010, 4:06 am

I agree with most of your assessment but I conclude, as with most films, "That's Hollywood for ya".

Still, one of my most favorite selections from any musical from LA Land is the "Born In A Trunk" piece. I think the trunk was one of the most impressive thing Judy had done in films. I own this movie and mostly skip to that section when I watch it. I find Tommy Noonan to be annoying in any movie along with Jack Carson. Jack Carson really annoyed me in his movies with Doris Day whom I adore. I guess we all dislike some in the movies but now with the skip feature on DVDs we can get over our dislikes.

The other Star Is Born movies all had little value to me. The first one was meaningless. The one with Barbra had perhaps 20 minutes of film value in it. In all the Star Is Born series was really a performance stage for the female star of the movie. I did, however, liked James Mason and I think it was his voice with accent that got me.

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Re: A Star is Born

Postby klondike » June 20th, 2010, 10:12 am

Wow, almost makes you want to dig up a copy of the '37 original, with Frederic March & Jan Gaynor . . if for no other reason than co-stars like May Robson & Andy Devine!
Has anybody on SSO seen that one?
I remember the Streisand/Kristofferson remake, caught it @ the theatre . . everything played OK, but frankly, the album had more lasting value than the flick. :?

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Lzcutter
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Re: A Star is Born

Postby Lzcutter » June 20th, 2010, 10:30 am

Klon,

I've seen the original, What Price Hollywood, the '37 version with Fredric March and Janet Gaynor, the Judy Garland/James Mason version and the Streisand/Kristofferson version.

Of them all, I think the Garland/Mason version is the best. Mason is heart-breaking in this film. Why does Norman drink? Why did Errol Flynn, John Barrymore or any other A actor with a good career and destructive tendencies drink? I could play arm chair shrink and say it might have been because they loathed themselves, didn't think acting was a proper career (though it made them famous and rich), genetically pre-disposed, there are many reasons.

But, it's not the why of the drinking that makes Mason so effective in this film. It's his inability to deal with it and stop drinking despite Esther's efforts and despite Esther's love. He loves her very much but he loves drinking more. Not everyone can walk away from self-destructive tendencies. If they could there would be far fewer people in rehab or still drinking (or drugging) their way to oblivion. Many won't accept the help when it is offered. Others will and back slide. Still others, like Anne's second husband, will stop.

But in Star is Born, Norman Maine has attained spectacular heights as an actor but it's not enough. He has been on a slow decline worthy of Flynn and Barrymore, when we meet him at the beginning of the film. For awhile, it looks like he can overcome those self-destructive tendencies and finally find true happiness with Esther.

But, try as he might, it is not to be. And, once he realizes that he is always going to be a problem for Esther, he goes for a swim so that he won't be always be a problem for her.


As for Jack Carson, you aren't supposed to like him in this film. Lionel Stander is even more unlikeable in the March/Gaynor version. Carson plays a publicity hack who has been cleaning up after Maine for too many years and is tired of doing it. But he is not too tired to turn down the paycheck that requires him to clean up after Maine.
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

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Re: A Star is Born

Postby mrsl » June 20th, 2010, 10:26 pm

.
Stevie:

You're correct about Born in a Trunk - it is a marvelous selection, and Judy does it great justice. But except for a liking or dislike of Mason or Carson, what makes this movie an Essential? RO said Judy more or less proved her whole existence in this movie, but I didn't see it. What am I missing that makes this such a great movie?
.
Anne


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Re: A Star is Born

Postby Lzcutter » June 21st, 2010, 10:29 pm

Maybe this will help?

Norman loves Esther very much. But, back in the day, they didn't treat alcohol as an addiction but as a disease that could be overcome with the right medicine.

Before the film begins (and is made known to us through the backstory), Norman Maine was the idol of millions, the actor of his generation and he soared to incredible heights. But as all who soar so high learn, the altitude cannot be sustained forever.

The spiral started slowly, he probably never noticed the prop he now needed to help relieve the emotional pain. But as the ground got closer, the spiral increased and he needed a crutch. The bottle becomes that crutch. It helps to make it through the days where he is no longer the top of the pyramid.

Esther comes into this world just as he is nearing rock bottom. He has gone from prestigious A- list studio films and would be further down the studio food chain of b -minus and c-type filler movies were it not for his talent which still shines through and Oliver Niles having his back.

He meets Esther and falls in love. He wants to make her dreams come true even though he knows how dangerous her dream to be a top movie star can be. He wants her to reach the heights he touched, confident that she will be able to sustain the altitude better than he.

He tries. He tries hard to put his problems on the back burner and concentrate on Esther. But along the way, before he met Esther, Norman found a love with a hell of a grip. Not the starlet who accompanies him to premieres and benefits at the top of the movie, but the bottle.

That love can blot out all his feelings of despair about his spiraling career, that love can make him believe that he can still be the dashing handsome playboy of yore, that the audience will still love him as a leading man and want him back.

Esther can't compete with that lover. At first she blames Norman for not being stronger, for not fighting harder but because he has shielded her from the reasons and causes of his demons, she doesn't understand why he can't overcome them. She only sees the bottle as the problem not the mangled self-esteem and insecurities that make Norman reach for that bottle.

And in a perverse sense, she see's herself as the reason that Norman drinks. If only she loved him more, if only she had more time to spend with him, if only she was stronger.

Because alcoholism back then was treated more like a mental illness that could be overcome with just drying out and didn't focus on the reasons for Norman's drinking, Norman isn't able to get a grip on his problem.

He falls off the wagon not because he loves Esther any less, not because Esther doesn't love him enough, but because he refuses to admit to himself and deal with the reason he drinks.

Oliver Niles offers to put Norman back to work if it will help Esther. But Norman isn't ready to give up the idea that he can once again be the heart throb of millions of women, he can't admit to himself that it's time to transition to character parts.

He's Norman Maine, after all. The actor that a generation admired and loved. But he cannot come to grips with the fact that the generation moved on and found new idols.

When he finally does realize that the pain cuts him to the bone as does the realization of the pain he has caused Esther.

He knows himself by then. He knows the only way he can escape the pain of being the former leading man of an era is to drown himself in alcohol.

His insecurities are too much to be overcome by love, his addiction too strong.

So, he does the only thing he thinks will keep him from further hurting and disappointing Esther. She won't leave him. She loves him too much. He loves her. Divorce is not really an option because they really do love one another. She is willing to give up her career. And if he were stronger, more able to deal with his problems, she wouldn't have to, they could grow old together.

But he's not. So, with one more look, Norman decides that Esther is better off without him and goes for a swim knowing that Esther will recover from the loss and continue to be able to pursue her dreams.

"This is Mrs. Norman Maine."

Here's a link to the scene with Esther (Judy Garland) and Oliver Niles (Charles Bickford):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ArgJOJlVpQ
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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Re: A Star is Born

Postby Lzcutter » June 22nd, 2010, 12:09 am

Here's a piece I wrote on the restoration last summer:

It's probably hard to believe that until the restoration of Star is Born was undertaken in the early 1980s, the only way to see the film was in the truncated version.

The film had debuted in 1954 at 181 minutes. Reviews were good and critical praise for both Garland and Mason was over the moon.

Life called it “a brilliantly staged, scored, and photographed film, worth all the effort” and the New York Times said it was “stunning.

But theater owners implored Jack Warner that if the film were cut down they could squeeze in an extra screening a day meaning more money for them and for Warners.

The film was cut against the wishes of George Cukor and was trimmed down to 154 minutes. While it doesn't rate as the worst truncated film of all time (that honor might go to the hack who cut down the original release of Once Upon a Time in America and tried to put the film in chronological order), the resulting cuts all but destroyed James Mason's tragic portrayal of Norman Maine.

In the truncated version, some of the tragedy is still there but the shorter version destroyed the power of his performance as his character spiraled out of control.

His final scene (SPOILER!!!!!!) where he walks out to the ocean was moving but it wasn't heart-rendering.

For years, that was the only version available and the only version those of us of certain age saw.

In the mid-1970s (before I arrived in the City of Angels), the Los Angeles County Art Museum held a retrospective of George Cukor films. Film Curators David Shepard and Ron Haver decided to show Star and create a brochure using stills to show the public what had been cut out. Cukor loaned them his shooting script and his extensive photo collection from the film.

Cukor did not attend the screening. In fact, he refused to watch the truncated version.

The screening, however, did light a fire under Warners to go on a hunt for the missing footage. But word came back from Warners that after extensive looking, none of the cut sequences could be found.

However, a few months later, a young apprentice editor on the lot contacted Ron Haver and told him that he had found the complete mixed soundtrack for the 181 minute version in a mislabeled can in one of the vaults.

It wasn't until 1981 that the idea to restore the film took hold. The Academy held a tribute to Ira Gershwin and Ron Haver screened "The Man Who Got Away" number and then remarked to the audience that two of Gershwin and Arlen's best songs had been cut from the film.

The Academy president at the time was Fay Kanin who was good friends with Cukor. Kanin also sat on the Board of Directors of the AFI and was part of the committee there that took film preservation seriously (ah, for the old days of the AFI).

The board agreed that restoring Star should be a priority and would be a great way of kicking off a "decade of preservation". There were concerns about the negative shot on Eastman color stock which was known to fade. The AFI got on board.

With that, Kanin contacted Robert Daly, then head of Warners and eventually got permission for Ron Haver to explore the company's film storage facilities.

In the spring of 1982, Haver began his treasure hunt. He started his search back East in the old Vitagraph storage facilities in Brooklyn that Warners had maintained since the 1920s. He checked out he lab in Manhattan that had struck the prints.

His journey brought him back to Los Angeles and the Technicolor lab on the Universal lot. Technicolor had made the first prints of the roadshow version back in 1954. According to its September 1954 records, the company struck 150 four-track stereo prints on Eastman color stock for the first run.

No more additional work was done until an order came through to cut the master negative.

The trims and deletions, as they were labeled, were shipped back to the studio in Burbank. Orders went out in 1954 from the editorial department to all the film exchanges across the country, telling them how to cut the prints and instructing them to send the excised material back to the studio.

The Academy placed ads in trade publications, but turned up nothing of interest.

Haver's first stop at Warners Burbank was the Sound Department's storage area located under the old Technicolor building on the lot. The subterranean basement was over a quarter of an acre.

"There were twenty-three cans, and the only way to find out if they were what we were looking for was to play back one of the reels to see if it had the missing material on it. Reel 3A was pulled; if all was well, it would have Esther saying good-bye to the band – and by God it did!" Ron Haver said.in an interview.

But finding the soundtrack was only half the battle.

Some bits and pieces were found. Haver found the missing "Here's What I'm Here For" musical number as well as the marriage proposal and the live mic pick up in one can.

The studio's stock footage library yielded some more because the exterior shots had been printed for use in other films should they need an exterior shot.

But none of the scenes with principal players were found despite a detailed search.

Haver then hit upon the idea of using Cukor's production stills to cover the missing footage. Up til then, stills had been used in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to show Butch, the Kid and Etta at New York's Coney Island but stills had not been used in place of lost footage.

Haver worked up a budget and got approval from the AFI. George Cukor and Gene Allen, Star's Production Designer, both agreed to help the project. Kanin approached Robert Daly at Warners about underwriting the budget. Daly wanted to see a test first and agreed to $5000 for the test.

It took five weeks to put together the test. The night before the test was to be shown to Robert Daly and George Cukor, Cukor passed away.

Despite the disappointment and sadness at Cukor's passing, it reinvigorated the participants and Robert Daly committed Warners to finishing the project.

Eastman Kodak got on board and donated the raw film stock needed to complete the project.

The restored version screened at Radio City Music Hall on July 7th, 1983 about six months after Cukor's passing.

The response was tremendous. The film played here in Los Angeles a week later. I was in the audience.

Watching the restored film it was obvious from the beginning that James Mason had been the one most robbed by the truncated version. As the love story played out across the screen we were all shown for the first time in almost twenty years, just how nuanced, tragic and moving his performance really was.

By the time he walked out into the surf, there were few dry eyes in the Academy theater and when Judy announced, "This is Mrs. Norman Maine" the audience felt the full impact of Norman's sacrifice.

Rumors have run abound over the last thirty years of complete prints being out there in the hands of collectors but as of yet, no one has come forward.

Ron Haver wrote an article for the old AFI American Film magazine about the restoration that summer. He later expanded that article into a book. "A Star Is Born - The Making of the 1954 Film and its 1983 Restoration ". He passed away way too soon and each time I go to the Academy or the LACMA theater I always think of him.

The AFI article can be read on-line at

http://www.judy-garland.org/asib/restoration.html
Lynn in Lake Balboa

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other and to ourselves."

"For me, John Wayne has only become more impressive over time." Marty Scorsese

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mrsl
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Re: A Star is Born

Postby mrsl » June 22nd, 2010, 1:06 am

.
Lynn:

There is an awful lot of information to absorb in your response. I hope I have it right, but I do wonder if the copy shown this past weekend was the one you said you were in the audience for? Because, as you could see, I got nothing from that print at all, even her 'Mrs. Maine' line offered no heart string tugs.

The first part of your post is what I have lived through. I realize an actor/actress at a certain age, feels his/her film career is over but the same thing happens in the business world, medical, legal, etc. Some people can live with it and go on to become consultants, teachers, etc. and continue to be contributing citizens. Some bank presidents end up selling mens underwear at Sears and are fine with it. Others, like Norman Maine cannot accept these changes and look at the bottle for that place to hide, or any other avenues which may or may not work.

Once again we are at the crossroads of considering how good the editor is. He can edit a masterpiece, or he can edit to a caricature of the original script. In this case, for me, it was the latter.
.
Anne


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* * * * * * * * What is past is prologue. * * * * * * * *

]***********************************************************************

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Re: A Star is Born

Postby Birdy » July 19th, 2010, 7:59 am

I have the 37 version with Gaynor/March. I would probably say I prefer March to Mason in the role. As to Janet or Judy, I just view them differently, but not exactly in comparison. I love 'Born in a Trunk' and really only rewatch the movie for Judy in that number and totally believe she lived the lyrics she's singing. In my opinion, that's what a musical is supposed to do and, in this one, I totally buy it.

As to it being an Essential, I've made the comment that most of the Essentials aren't my favorites. They are all somebody's favorites. They are the movies that you have to have seen to be a 'sophisticated' classic film lover. I've seen them all (or close to it) at least once. But most of them are too heavy, too violent, too trite, too over-referenced, or too sad for my tastes. So that makes my favorites the less obscure and lighthearted fare, except to you guys, which is why I'm on this site. Long live "Miss Pacific Fleet!"

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Re: A Star is Born

Postby charliechaplinfan » July 19th, 2010, 1:26 pm

There is a thread comparing the two movies, I posted on it a few days ago after watching the 1937 version of the movie.

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=2315&start=15

I wouldn't like to start to compare the two Norman Maines, both are performances of distinction, both equally tortured and believeable. Fredric March's Norman reminds me a little of John Gilbert, he is more of a fading matinee idol, whereas I see James Mason as more rounded actor who's been around a long time.

Both movies are very good, Judy's Esther is jaded having been around the nightclub circuit whereas Janet's is more of a young hopeful who realises how slight her dream of becoming a star is.

The story is quite a complex one, why does he continue to drink when he has everything? I agree with your post lzcutter.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin


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