A Star Is Born (1954)

A Star Is Born
James Mason and Judy Garland

'A Star Is Born' is an American musical made in 1954, by director, George Cukor, and starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The movie was ranked at number 3 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals and the song 'The Man That Got Away' was ranked at number 11 on their list of the 100 top film tunes.

The movie received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor for James Mason and Best Actress for Judy Garland but, surprisingly, won none. It has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

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The film represented a triumphant comeback for Judy Garland four years after her contract was dropped by MGM. Garland's brilliantly realistic performance, one of the finest of her career, reflected her own rise to stardom as a young girl, and her subsequent troubled personal life with failed marriages and constant battles with drug and alcohol dependency.

'A Star Is Born' is a remake of William Wellman's original 1937 moving drama of the same name starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. There was also a 1976 rock version with Barbra Streisland and Kris Kristofferson which is memorable only for her singing.

Cukor's musical, with Judy Garland and James Mason both sensational, broke new ground in the musical genre by propelling dramatic narrative with songs particularly in Garland's tortured 'The Man That Got Away' and the show-stopping production number 'Born in A Trunk.' Not to be outdone, Mason's Norman Maine is spellbinding in his drunken display at the Academy Awards.

The plot is essentially a simple one. Norman Maine (James Mason), a movie star whose career is slipping badly, meets showgirl Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland ) when he drunkenly stumbles into her act one night. As friendship, then romance blossom, Norman recognises her star quality and spark of genius and helps her get a role in an important musical film that is a huge success, making her a star. Her relationship with Norman flourishes for a while and they wed, but tensions increase as Esther's career goes into orbit while Norman's continues to slide.

Main Cast

Judy Garland .... Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester
James Mason .... Norman Maine
Jack Carson ... Matt Libby
Charles Bickford ... Oliver Niles
Tom Noonan ... Danny McGuire
Amanda Blake ... Susan Ettinger
Lucy Marlow ... Lola Lavery


Director ... George Cukor
Producer ... Sidney Luft
Screen Play ... Moss Hart, based on the screenplay by Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson, from a story by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson
Musical Direction ... Ray Heindorf
New Songs: Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin

Academy Awards

No Wins:
6 Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Actress ... Judy Garland
Best Actor ... James Mason
Best Art Direction ... Malcolm C. Bert, Gene Allen, Irene Sharaff, George James Hopkins
Best Costume Design ... Jean Louis, Mary Ann Nyberg, Irene Sharaff
Best Original Song ... "The Man that Got Away"
Original Music Score ... Ray Heindorf