“A Star Is Born” (1954)

Directed by George Cukor
Warner Brothers
US, 176 minutes
Starring Judy Garland, James Mason

The behind-the-scenes back story that lead to Judy Garland’s desire to use a musical re-make of A Star Is Born as a come back vehicle is one of the great Golden Age Hollywood tales of redemption. The 1954 version of William A. Wellman’s film – directed by one of his contemporaries, George Cukor – is one of the great musicals, not just thanks to its length, but to its timeless story and incredible acting. Most musicals tend to be a little too happy, but A Star Is Born never shies away from the seriousness of its scenario. This is partly thanks to Garland’s incredible co-star, James Mason. He is at the top of his game here – it is almost obscene how good he is. It is also clearly George Cukor’s film. His direction causes sequences like “The Man That Got Away” and “Born in a Trunk” classic scenes in musical history.

"Born in a Trunk" - 20 minutes of musical magic

Last year, Warner released the film on Blu-Ray, making it just the second Garland film (after The Wizard of Oz) to make the Hi-Def leap. The 176 minute film takes up one dual-layered Blu-Ray disc and it could not look better. The colors are vibrant and the “Born in a Trunk” sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be given to the supplements, all housed on a single-layered DVD (the same one that is packed with the DVD version). There are only two types of supplements – outtakes and promotional material. If any film called for a feature-length making-of documentary, this is it. Warner provides nothing on the restoration of the picture, which would help explain why nearly a half-an-hour of the picture is only in stills. A commentary by the restoration team would probably have been even better. Sure, John Fricke’s essay is great on the behind-the-scenes aspects, but it fails to go into detail on what exactly the cuts were and why. He devotes just the two pages on the subject.

However, most people do not buy a film for their supplements, so those looking to just enjoy the picture in the state we have it today will have nothing to complain about. The deluxe digi-book packaging is nice and I really doubt the film could look any better. Still, for those looking on a history of the film, the essay will not be enough. For a film starring one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived, it deserves more than a collection of newsreels and trailers.

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