Jenny Bowman is a successful singer who, while on an engagement at the London Palladium, visits David Donne to see her son Matt again, spending a few glorious days with him while his father... See full summary »
Norman Maine, a movie star whose career is on the wane, meets showgirl Esther Blodgett when he drunkenly stumbles into her act one night. A friendship develops, then blossoms into romance before tensions increase as Esther's career takes off while Norman's continues to plummet. Written by
Col Needham <email@example.com>
Shortly before the premiere, George Cukor cut the film down to 181 minutes. Among the footage removed was a segment from the "Born in the Trunk" number; Norman's return to the Shrine Auditorium to try to learn Esther's name; Norman and Esther planning the beach house; and a montage of scenes from Norman Maine's leading roles. The musical number is included in the most recent DVDs of the film but the other footage has never been recovered. See more »
After Vicki comes home and she performs in her house for Norman, the doorbell rings and he goes to the door to accept a package for Vicki. His hair is all mussed up when he goes to the door, but after he closes it and the camera goes back to him, there isn't a hair out of place. Then he walks over to where Vicki is and his hair is all mussed up again. See more »
Is it possible to watch this fictional story without digressing to thoughts about the real life story of Judy Garland? For me it isn't. Both are permanently intertwined. And it's not just the parallel between fiction and fact, but also the dark, brooding, melancholy mood they engender, like ghosts calling out to us from a Hollywood that no longer exists.
The film's storyline is well known. I won't belabor it here, except to say that it communicates an honest and introspective indictment of the entertainment industry as it once was. The story can be thought of as a kind of archetypal Hollywood memoir, expressed as a musical.
But musicals are supposed to be upbeat, lighthearted, fun. This one isn't. Moments of humor and joy are swept away in a cascade of emotional pain and tragedy. Fiction mimics real life. How appropriate that the film's signature song "The Man That Got Away" is one that is so uncompromisingly serious, poignant, and smoldering ... a perfect vehicle for Judy Garland.
Some say she had the greatest singing voice of any entertainer in the twentieth century. This film lends credence to that assertion. Every song she sings is performed with such consummate verve, such emotional commitment that she seems to be singing not just for her contemporaries, but also for generations to come. Indeed, she is. My personal favorite is the "Born In A Trunk" segment, all fifteen minutes of it. Surrounded by sets of true cinematic art, she belts out one tune after another, including, of course, the poignant "Melancholy Baby".
Judy's singing and the music itself are what make the movie so memorable. But she also demonstrates her considerable acting talent. And the acting of other cast members is fine, especially the performances of James Mason and Jack Carson. I do think that the film was, and still is, too long, the result of an overly ambitious screenplay.
That Judy Garland was denied the Best Actress Oscar is poignant. But her talent was so massive, her uniqueness was so special, maybe fate required a compensatory level of pain and tragedy, as a prerequisite of legend.
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