Aspire To Fame ... Differently

A Star Is Born (1954)
A Review By Ben Hunter
4 Out Of 5 Stars


Even with its gratuitous nature, it was truly amazing to see how a star was born.


Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) is an aspiring singer that makes it big in Hollywood.  With the help of Norman Maine (James Mason) a washed up A-Lister, she quickly catches on in Hollywood as “Vicki Lester” an A-Lister herself.  Realizing Esther’s talent, becoming obsessed with it and turning her into Vicki, Norman falls in love with her and the pressures of stardom become overwhelming for the two.  Set in real life Los Angeles, this rendition of the 1937 take, was marketed as Judy Garland’s big comeback, and tells the tale of responsibility, caring for those you love, and how becoming a star can become more than what one had hoped for. 

This started out as a BRILLIANT use of the musical numbers it encompassed.  I was so intrigued, as much as Norman was when he first heard Esther sing, when I witnessed how perfectly the songs tied in with the story, making it a cohesive unit.  Everything that was sung was on purpose, not just because “it’s a musical so that means we have to put songs in it”.  Esther sings with her band, for the big ceremony to introduce the characters in the beginning or after hours at a bar while they rehearse, etc.  All throughout I kept thinking, “This is how all musicals should be, because that’s just darn good writing!” 

Well into the second act, after the intermission, this train of thought is there, but the musical numbers become a bit gratuitous by this point.  It’s kind of cool to view this as a man and see a woman putting on a show for her husband in the living room having just fed him.  But by gosh Judy puts on a LAVISH musical number for a “relaxed evening as a couple”; numbers along that line.  Nice to watch, but not really necessary to truly serve the story.  I liked the direction it all was going.  The writing was quite decent in that I was on board with the story’s evolvement.  I loved the lingo that was created of this world.  It was a special way that the actors within it spoke and it all worked to my assurance.  But it really felt like keeping its running length to the intermission’s point of time should’ve been the goal.  Watching Judy Garland sing and dance, in a VERY talented manner I might add, in musicals she’s now hired in as the amazing Vicki Lester, for a good handful of scenes again felt a little “unasked-for”.  I began the countdown to the end instead of anticipating the next moment. 

As a writer, had this been my work, I would’ve appreciated the job well done of slowly showing the demise of characters and the uprising of others.  But the film lover within me would’ve kept asking “but would anyone want to sit through all of this?”  If it’s good writing, yes, but if I have to ask that repeatedly, then is it really? 

Not to mention, the photos to show the progression of the story during the fun and games montages REALLY took me out of it.  It’s innovative and creative, but a veto stamp on the papers if presented to me. 

However, I’m glad I watched it; there’s obviously something to this story if it’s been done three times (SO glad Clint Eastwood couldn’t put together a 4th time with Beyoncé!).  It was kind of neat to see the older version of Judy Garland.  The version that says this is no longer that little girl we fell in love with in The Wizard of Oz (1939) but a full grown, mature, and aging woman to love now.  The version of Judy Garland that reminds me that Liza Minnelli is her daughter.  Or being a resident of Los Angeles, seeing all the places I attend regularly in their state of being in the 50’s.  The real Academy Awards in a fictional world was interesting; and I could write an entire blog with entries to support it about this scenario of Hollywood bringing in other artists to take away the shine of dedicated employees already here.  But even with all its flaws, massive or miniscule, bottom line, it was nice to see how a star was born.  But more importantly, how that star was triumphant in life. That’s something we all should aspire to become famous at.    

A Star Is Born
Musical, 176 Minutes, PG
Story by: Robert Carson and William A. Wellman (1937 film)
Screenplay by: Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, & Robert Carson (1937 Screenplay)
Screenplay by: Moss Hart
Directed by: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford 

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