I had my review of the new Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga version of “A Star Is Born” all set to post this morning when I realized it won’t be in theaters until next Friday. Since I’m embargoed from releasing it until then, I thought I’d delve into some movie history from an earlier version of the story.
“A Star Is Born” was first a non-musical movie in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, then re-made in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, then again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. It’s the middle one that has always been a favorite of mine, and one of its highlights was Garland singing “The Man That Got Away” (music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ira Gershwin).
Director George Cukor shot three different versions of the song over the course of several months. They all took place in an after-hours club that’s closed for the night except for some musicians who are playing for themselves, for the fun of it. The first two versions, shot in the fall of 1953, were each scrapped because, while the performances were all fine, the look was bland and the angles were wrong. They were included in a DVD re-release of the movie a few years ago — you can find them on YouTube.
Finally, in February, 1954, Cukor figured out the right costuming, lighting, and camera placement. He captured Garland in one continuous shot that shows her power, her presence, and the finesse of her performance. I’ve seen this scene dozens of times and still get chills down my spine watching it…
Does the 2018 version of “A Star Is Born” have anything to rival that? You’ll have to wait until next Friday to find out.