Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

A Star Is Born in 1954 ...

Its interesting for A STAR IS BORN fans - thats the 1954 Cukor film obviously, not the Streisand abomination - to see an original review from 1954 when it had just opened. This is just a few comments (by Clayton Cole) from the Nov 1954 issue of "Films and Filming" which gave the film lavish praise and coverage in those early issues. 
A STAR IS BORN is a film of almost incomparable brilliance and richness whose brilliance and richness never intrude for their own sakes, but are used solely as aids in the unfolding of the drama, the colour is used in the most subtle way to increase the spectator's emotional involvement, set the mood of the scene and convey the emotions of the characters. The opening shots of a mammoth charity gala perfectly capture the overwrought atmosphere that prevails at any function of this sort in Hollywood: backstage, in the lobby where the struggle is to be seen, and on the street lined with fans who scream at the arrival of every preening celebrity ...(I also love that marvellous opening sequence with that rich Warnercolor adding depth). 
With this film Judy Garland takes her place among the few very great ladies of theatrical art, for added to all that we knew of her before there is now an emotional talent of the greatest depth. Throughout this enormously long film she never makes one wrong move or utters a false sound. Where before she was primarily a great entertainer, she is now that and so much more. The catch in the voice, the bubbling laugh, the pathos under the gaiety, are here used as manifestations of a character and not just as examples of virtuosity. 
James Mason's Norman Maine is no mere foil, but the most finely etched performance he has given since coming to Hollywood. His portrait of great talent disintegrated through drink is completely true, and even in the scenes of sodden drunkeness he is always Norman Maine. A STAR IS BORN is a film of great technical achievement that is illuminated throughout by the sensitivity and quality of its very particular star. (I know it was Brando's year, but Mason gets my award for best actor of 1954).

Ironically though next to the review on the page - below - is a still of Grace Kelly in that year's THE COUNTRY GIRL .... a portent then of the coming Oscars.  
We love A STAR IS BORN here at The Projector, as per the many other posts on it - see Garland/Cukor/Mason labels. It was in fact one of the first films I saw that year when I was 8, and like JOHNNY GUITAR its images were stunning to the young me, and have remained so. 


  1. That's a very cool find for that wonderful film. I like the earlier Gaynor/March version, though it's prairie opening is hopelessly dated now, and the Constance Bennett original but none compare to this master work. The less said about Babs' version, and I love her but the film is a stinking pile, the better.

    I just read yesterday that Bradley Cooper has taken over the directorial reins from Clint Eastwood on the proposed remake but with Beyonce still in the lead. Worst of all they plan on using the Streisand version as their template! I like Cooper quite a bit but he's wrong for Norman Maine, he's too young to begin with and pathos from what I've seen is not in his wheelhouse. And Beyonce cripes! she sings well enough though I've never found her electrifying but she doesn't have the acting skill required. I really can't think of a single bankable actress working today who could make Esther work, at least if they're going to make it a musical. A horrifying idea all the way around!!

  2. Good comments. Bey as Etta James didn't exactly set the world alight, the film barely was seen here. Any new version will be even more dumbed down than the Streisand version. There is a depth and richness to the 1954 film that I just love, and Jack Carson and Charles Bickford are both marvellous too.