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Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Star Is Born (1954): Starring Judy Garland and James Mason

A Star is Born was a movie that has been made many times, with the version having Judy Garland being the most popular. Other versions of the movie have been made in 1937 (starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March) and in 1976 (starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson). The 1954 version has a huge amount of history related to Judy Garland. In the years preceding the movie, she had been dumped from her contract with MGM in 1950 (and had not made a movie since), and as you can imagine, for a movie with her to be released 4 years later made promotion of the movie as a comeback movie. She made it to the Oscar nominations as a nominee for Best Actress (and since the show was going on when she was in hospital after having delivered her son, a television crew was sent by NBC since they were sure that she would win), but the Oscar went to Grace Kelly for the Country Girl.

Judy Garland in A Star Is Born (1954)

The movie talks about a story that does not seem so unfamiliar - a famous actor finds and promotes a young talent, they fall in love, she becomes successful and he starts falling down. This puts strain on their marriage, and leads to a tragic ending.
Norman Maine (played by James Mason) is a highly successful movie star, whose career has been good, but who is now moving slowly on the path downward. One day, he arrives drunk at an event, and refuses to listen to pleas not to go to on stage. A disaster is averted due to the quick action of the singer of the playing orchestra who makes it seem like his arrival on stage to greet fans was planned (this singer of the orchestra is Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland)).
He is impressed by her quick thinking, and later when watching her performance. He promises to help her get a break into movies the next day. However, the next day he has to leave early and is unable to get her a message; she has left her job already and feels like he was just flirting with her. She has to do odd jobs now to make ends meet. After the passage of some time, Norman hears her singing on TV, and finds her, convincing her that he will make good on his promise. He manages to get her into movies, and slowly, she starts becoming more successful. Her movie is successful, and she is now a major star. Their relations also progresses, and they get married.
However, things start reversing now. Her career (she is now called a new stage name, Vicki Lester) keeps on growing while Norman finds himself out of work and no longer as famous as he used to be. He is a drunkard, and only manages to get out of his alcohol addiction after an incident in which he strikes her. He manages to get out of alcohol, but reverts when an old associate accuses him of living off his wife's earnings. He reverts to alcoholism, and is arrested by the police. Vicki takes him home, and it is then Norman hears her saying that she will even give up her career to take care of him. This is not something that Norman can take, and he drowns himself in the ocean, leaving Vicki devastated.
She withdraws from her career, until an old friend manages to talk her into agreeing to one of her older commitment to appear at a show, and she reaches the auditorium where the event is being held. There she sees again an old heart that Norman had drawn on the wall when they had met for the first time, and almost loses it. In the end, she decides to announce herself as Mrs. Norman Maine.