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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Exceptional...but so was the 1937 version of this film!
Note: This review is for the reassembled version of the film shown recently on Turner Classic Movies. It seemed that Warner Brothers Studio decided to severely trim the film (partly to squeeze in more shows in a given day!) and threw away the edited film stock! However, the sound track remained and so for a few minor scenes, stills were inserted in this restored version as the sound fills in the rest! This is an odd film for me to watch because I almost always hate seeing remakes--and this is a remake of the 1937 Janet Gaynor film. It's also odd because the Academy chose to nominate it for six awards--and that certainly is not something you expect for a remake--especially since the original film was brilliant. Currently the original has an overall rating of 7.7 and this remake a 7.8, if you care about that sort of thing.
When this movie begins, you can see an obvious difference between the 1930s and 50s versions. The original suffers from poor color--mostly because Technicolor was new and not completely perfected. Whereas the 1950s version uses CinemaScope--a color system that looks even better than real life. Sure, the colors are very, very intense but they make for a lovely film! One other obvious difference between the films is the musical angle. Miss Gaynor was not a singer and her version has her portraying an actress--and she looks more suited to the role due to her looking much younger. However, as Judy Garland was a great singer, her Esther Blodgett was changed to a singer AND movie star--and the film is much more like a musical. If you love musicals, this is an exceptional one--though I really thought all the singing and dancing got in the way of the plot on occasion. Because of this, the 1930s version is easier to watch. I'm not a huge fan of Garland's singing, so my nod would go to the less musical version---but I could really see Garland fans ADORING this film--you get to see and hear A LOT of her and this is one of her last performances where she has her 'A-game'--she sings her heart out. Sadly, drugs would take a severe toll on her acting and singing in later films. Even sadder is that MGM doctors apparently were responsible for getting her hooked on these drugs, as the studio gave her amphetamines in order to increase her film output!! Poor thing-- she certainly deserved better and she did look a bit old for this role (she looked much older than 32)--most likely due to these drugs.
Despite lacking originality, you can't help but enjoy this film. Sure Hollywood didn't NEED to remake the original (it was a great film), but end result is wonderful and different enough that it can be appreciated on its own merits. The acting and direction are lovely and the story, even if it's been done before, was very good and full of charm. The same, by the way, cannot be said of the yechy remake from the 1970s which starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Now THAT was a dreadful film! By the way, although Miss Garland is known mostly for this film and "The Wizard of Oz", try watching her in "The Clock"--a 'small' film that is just marvelous and highly underrated.
Also, it's amusing that the in the film the studio moguls hate her given name (Esther Blodgett). The same was true in real life for Garland, as her actual given name was Frances Gumm!
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