On a train trip West to become a mail order bride Susan Bradley meets a cheery crew of young women traveling out to open a " Harvey House " restaurant at a remote whistle stop to provide ... 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In October 1954, after the film had opened and been reviewed, Harry Warner, head of the studio's business side in New York, decided that the picture was too long. He ordered another half-hour of cuts so that exhibitors could get in one more showing per day. By this time, George Cukor was in India filming Bhowani Junction (1956), so he was unable to influence the re-editing of the film. The cuts included an entire sequence in which Norman and Esther lose touch with each other while Norman is on location. A comic scene of her getting sick on the way to her first preview was also deleted, along with two complete numbers, "Here's What I'm Here For," the song Esther is recording when Norman proposes to her, and "Lose That Long Face," the number she does before and after she breaks down in her dressing room. The cuts represented most of the scenes that developed Norman and Esther's relationship. To make matters worse, the studio melted the negative from the cut scenes to retrieve the film's silver content. Word of the cuts hit the press and generated such a strong backlash against the film that attendance dropped precipitously. As a result, despite the film's promising opening, it ended up losing money. See more »
When Esther and Norman are in Norman's convertible, , the distance between them keeps changing between shots. 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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