A Star Is Born (1954 film)

A Star Is Born (1954 film)

name = A Star Is Born

caption =Film trailer screenshot
amg_id = 1:46640
imdb_id = 0047522
director = George Cukor
writer = William A. Wellman
Robert Carson
Dorothy Parker
Alan Campbell
Moss Hart
starring = Judy Garland
James Mason
Jack Carson
producer = Sid Luft
music = Harold Arlen
cinematography = Sam Leavitt
distributor = Warner Brothers
released = September 29, 1954 (U.S. release)
runtime = 178 Min
Director's Cut
language = English

"A Star Is Born" is a 1954 musical remake of the original 1937 film, directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason. Musical highlights include "The Man That Got Away" and the "Born in a Trunk" sequence.

In 2000, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

In 2006, this film ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals. The song "The Man That Got Away" was ranked number 11 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs list. The movie ranked #43 on the AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions list in 2002.

Garland had not made a movie since she had been humiliatingly dropped from her MGM contract in 1950, and this film was heavily promoted as a triumphant comeback. She was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her tour-de-force performance and was heavily tipped to win. NBC, which was televising the awards, even sent a crew to the hospital room where Garland was recuperating after giving birth to her son Joey, to carry her acceptance speech live if she won. However, she lost to Grace Kelly ("The Country Girl") in a shock result that famously prompted Groucho Marx to send Garland a telegram stating it was "the biggest robbery since Brinks".

The film was re-edited several times. Premiering at 181 minutes, the studio (Warner Bros.) cut the film by 30 minutes despite the objections of director Cukor and producer Sid Luft (Garland's husband). The cuts were made because theater owners complained the film was too long, limiting the number of daily showings. In 1983, all but 5 minutes of the cut footage was found and reinstated, but some of the footage had to be reconstructed using production stills. Most of the original multi-track stereophonic sound was also restored. This was shown in many theaters and then released on home video. [Warner Home Video] Columbia Records released all of the songs in stereo; the recordings were later reissued by Sony on CD.

The premiere of the 1954 film at the Pantages in Los Angeles was a major event with Garland, Mason, studio head Jack L. Warner, and Jack Carson (who emceed), and dozens of A-list stars attending. As the celebrities arrived at the theater, it was televised live and a kinescope film has survived. [Special showing of the kinescope in San Francisco, 1983]

Despite the film's success, Warner Brothers cancelled Judy Garland's contract and refused to make any further films with her. In her autobiography, Doris Day admitted that both she and Garland battled "nervous breakdowns" in dealing with the studio. It was 1961 before Garland again appeared in a film, playing a crucial, dramatic supporting role in "Judgment at Nuremberg".


Norman Maine (James Mason) is a matinee idol who has enjoyed an illustrious career which is in the early stages of decline. When he arrives intoxicated at a function at the Shrine Auditorium, his studio's publicist attempts to keep him away from reporters, and after an angry exchange, Norman rushes away and bursts onto a stage where an orchestra is performing. Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland), the orchestra's singer, takes Norman by the hand and pretends that he is part of the act, turning an embarrassing and destructive moment into an opportunity for the audience to greet Norman with applause. Realizing that Esther has saved him from public humiliation, Norman thanks her and draws a heart on the wall with her lipstick, before he asks her to dinner. Later he watches her perform in a downtown club and is impressed by her talent. He urges her to follow her dream, and convinces her to try to break into movies. Esther agrees to meet Norman the following day and leaves her band; however, Norman is taken away early in the morning to begin filming on location. He tries to get a message to Esther but cannot remember her address, and when Esther does not hear from him, she suspects that he was only flirting with her and was not serious.

Some time passes and Norman hears Esther singing on a television commercial and recognizes her voice. He finds her and convinces her that he believes in her talent, but the head of his studio, Oliver Niles (Charles Bickford), does not believe that Esther is anything more than a passing interest for Norman, although he allows her to play a small part in a film. The studio changes her name to Vicki Lester, and after Norman finally gets Oliver Niles to hear her sing, she is cast in an important musical film. The film is a great success, and Vicki Lester becomes a star. Her relationship with Norman Maine flourishes, and they marry.

Vicki's career continues to grow, while Norman finds himself unemployed. When Vicki is presented with an Academy Award, Norman takes to the stage with her and, while making a drunken speech, begins gesturing and accidentally strikes Vicki in the face. Norman finally realizes how severe his alcoholism has become and enters a sanitarium where he gradually recovers with Vicki's support. Some time later at a racetrack, he is confronted by his old studio publicist Matt Libby (Jack Carson) who taunts Norman and accuses him of living on Vicki's earnings. This results in a fight, and Norman goes on a drinking binge and is eventually arrested. Vicki takes Norman home, and Oliver Niles joins them at their house. Norman goes to bed, but through an open window hears Vicki telling Niles that she will give up her career to care for Norman. Later, Norman tells Vicki that he is going to go for a swim. Then, he walks into the ocean and drowns himself. Despondent, Vicki retreats to her home and refuses to see anyone. Finally, her old friend Danny tells her that she is wasting the career that Norman died trying to save, and she agrees to honor a commitment to appear at a charity function. At the Shine Auditorium, she notices the heart Norman drew on the wall on the night they met and for a moment begins to lose her composure. When Vicki arrives on stage, the emcee tells her that the event is being broadcast internationally and asks her to say a few words to her fans. She says, "Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine."

The plot closely follows that of the 1937 film, with the addition of several musical numbers.


*Judy Garland as Vicki Lester (Esther Blodgett), a singer
*James Mason as Norman Maine, a Hollywood film actor
*Jack Carson as Matt Libby, a studio publicist
*Charles Bickford as Oliver Niles, the head of the studio
*Tommy Noonan as Danny McGuire
*Lucy Marlow as Lola Lavery
*Amanda Blake as Susan Ettinger

Soundtrack releases

The soundtrack has never been out of print. It was originally released by Columbia Records in 1954 in 12 inch 78 RPM and 12 and 10 inch 33 1/3 RPM editions.

In 1988, Columbia released the soundtrack on CD for the first time ever, taking the overture and the main musical numbers directly from the film's stereo soundtrack due to the fact that no stereo soundtrack masters existed.

In 2004, the film's 50th anniversary year, Columbia, Legacy Recordings, and Sony Music Soundtrax released a nearly complete digitally remastered expanded edition of the soundtrack. Due to the lack of a complete multitrack version of all songs and score from the film, the CD includes a mix of mono and stereo elements in order to make as complete a soundtrack as possible. "Here's What I'm Here For" and "Lose That Long Face" come from the original mono masters. "Gotta Have Me Go With You" is mostly in stereo, save for a brief portion where the mono soundtrack album master was used in order to remove plot-related screams from the track. All of the instrumental tracks are in mono as well.

The 2004 soundtrack also includes three vocal outtakes - an alternate vocal for the reprise of "It's A New World" that Esther sings while Norman goes for his final swim; "When My Sugar Walks Down The Street," which was intended to be part of the Born In A Trunk sequence, but was deleted for time constraints; and "The Trinidad Coconut Oil Shampoo Commercial," which was taken from a worn acetate playback disc - the only surviving recording of the complete track. In addition, much of the instrumental portion of the 2004 soundtrack contains partial or whole outtakes. This CD also sees the first CD release of the complete version of "Gotta Have Me Go With You" with full intro as well as "The Man That Got Away" with an expanded intro not used in the original film.

The original Columbia 1954 mono vinyl version of the soundtrack has been released on CD in Britain by Prism Leisure. This version is easily found on Amazon.com and contains bonus tracks of Judy Garland's Decca re-recordings of songs from other films.

1954 soundtrack tracklisting

1. Gotta Have Me Go With You
2. The Man That Got Away
3. Born In A Trunk Medley (Swanee/I'll Get By/You Took Advantage Of Me/The Black Bottom/Peanut Vendor/My Melancholy Baby/Swanee)
*not included on 10 inch version4. Here's What I'm Here For
5. It's A New World
6. Someone At Last
7. Lose That Long Face

1988 soundtrack tracklisting

1. Overture
2. Gotta Have Me Go With You
3. The Man That Got Away
4. Born In A Trunk Medley
5. Here's What I'm Here For
6. It's A New World
7. Someone At Last
8. Lose That Long Face

2004 expanded soundtrack tracklisting

1. Overture [Instrumental]
2. Night Of The Stars [Instrumental]
3. Gotta Have Me Go With You
4. Norman At Home [Instrumental] [Outtake]
5. Passion Oriental [Instrumental]
6. The Man That Got Away
7. Cheatin' On Me [Instrumental]
8. I'm Qutting The Band... [Instrumental] [Partial Outtake]
9. The Man That Got Away [Instrumental] [Partial Outtake]
10. Esther In The Boarding House [Instrumental] [Partial Outtake]
11. Oliver Niles Studio [Instrumental]
12. Esther's Awful Makeup [Instrumental]
13. First Day In The Studio [Instrumental]
14. Born In A Trunk Medley
15. Easy Come, Easy Go [Instrumental]
16. Here's What I'm Here For
17. The Honeymoon [Instrumental]
18. It's A New World
19. Someone At Last
20. Lose That Long Face
21. Norman Overhears The Conversation [Instrumental]
22. It's A New World [Alternate Take]
23. The Last Swim [Instrumental] [Outtake]
24. Finale/End Credits [Instrumental]
25. When My Sugar Walks Down The Street [Outtake]
26. The Trinidad Coconut Oil Shampoo


External links

* [http://www.thejudyroom.com/astarisborn.html The Judy Room "A Star is Born" section]
* [http://www.judy-garland.org/discography/soundtracks/asib78.html The Judy Room "A Star Is Born" Discography Section]

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