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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>
On a brief getaway this past weekend, the hotel where I was staying had TCM (Turner Classic Movies) on its cable roster and, lo! and behold, there was Judy singing and acting her heart out in letterbox and stereo sound. TCM...you're the best!
It was the restored version, thank the good Lord, with that sad reminder of Warner Brothers' pathetic timidity in trashing Cukor's original cut, but recalling for us his masterful use of the widescreen ratio. (A "formatted" version would be simply unwatchable, what with numerous scenes played by actors perched on the outer reaches of the screen, opposite each other.)
James Mason turns in an absolutely brilliant performance, especially when one recalls the rigors of production, with filming going months over schedule, due to Judy's unhappy vicissitudes (so evident in her appearance even within the same scene!) With the very able support of Charles Bickford, as the most benign studio head ever, and Jack Carson proving why Warners kept him employed so often for so many years.
Plus musical direction taking fabulous advantage of Warners' studio orchestra (and WB's sound technicians who were, for several decades running, the envy of all the other major studios), and arrangements that must have overwhelmed first-run audiences with their incredible richness.
It's a must-see, all right, and is in a class by itself, among the several screen versions of this beloved Hollywood saga.
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