A Star is Born

Screening on Film
Directed by George Cukor.
With Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson.
US, 1954, 35mm, color, 154 min.
Print source: HFA

High in the Hollywood firmament, a cruel cosmology dictates that one star’s rise is another one’s fall. In Cukor’s late studio masterpiece A Star is Born, Judy Garland’s quivering, ruby-lipped Esther is zealously raised as an icon of Hollywood chutzpah, while her bourbon-soaked mentor, has-been thespian Norman Maine (James Mason), slurs his lines and tumbles from the stage, schadenfreude grist for the gossip mill. Gothic shadows haunt the edges of Cukor's Cinemascope cautionary tale, which lurches with mesmerizing intensity from dazzling and, at times, self-consciously baroque song-and-dance numbers to dark meditations on the Stygian death drive fueling the fragile lives and loves of Hollywood's beautiful and damned. Screening here is a rare, original IB Technicolor release print of the 154-minute version, unblemished by the later, Frankenstein-esque “restoration,” which awkwardly added extra scenes using publicity stills in place of the missing original footage.

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