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A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born(1954)

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Opening credits list nine performers without their character names; the ending credits list the character names of the top five leads. After screenwriter Moss Hart's credit appears in the opening credits, the remaining writers' credits read: "Based on the Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson screen play" and "From a story by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson." Irene Sharaff's onscreen credit reads: "Art director and costumes for 'Born in a Trunk' by Irene Sharaff." Although only Leonard Gershe is credited onscreen for the song "Born in a Trunk," an October 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that longtime Garland friend and collaborator Roger Edens wrote the lyrics, but could not take credit because of an agreement with M-G-M.
       The following written acknowledgment appears during the opening credits: "Academy Award statuettes were used in this picture by permission of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences." A September 1954 Los Angeles Times news item reported that fifty Oscar replicas were made of gold-painted plaster, which, according to the agreement between Warner Bros. and the Academy, were destroyed immediately after filming the scene and were not allowed to be stored in the prop shop.
       A Star Is Born marked Garland's first completed film since the 1950 Summer Stock, and her first since her dismissal from M-G-M, the studio to which she had been under contract for many years. In the interim, she reportedly suffered much unhappiness, made several suicide attempts, divorced and remarried. Her third husband, Sidney Luft, who took over as her manager, organized her now legendary concert performances at the London Palladium and New York Palace and arranged for her to make a "comeback." According to a September 1952 Hollywood Reporter news item, Sid Luft Productions announced plans to produce three films, one of which would be a remake of the 1937 Selznick film, A Star Is Born. According to a modern source, Luft had earlier negotiated with Edward L. Alperson, who owned the negative of the 1937 film and its remake rights, and with him formed Transcona Enterprises, which was named for a Canadian town in which Luft once lived. Although ^A Star Is Born was planned, according to contemporary sources, to be Transcona's first production, the 1954 Bounty Hunter marked the company's first release. An unsourced news clipping dated September 1952 found in the file for the film at the AMPAS Library reported that filming for A Star Is Born would begin after the birth of the Lufts' baby in January, but production did not begin until the following fall.
       In August 1953, Daily Variety reported that James Mason was cast after "lengthy speculation" over who would play the part of "Norman Maine." According to a September 1953 Daily Variety, William Powell turned down the part of "Oliver Niles." Modern sources say that the following actors were considered for the leading role: Richard Burton, Tyrone Power, James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Glenn Ford, Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier.
       Trouble with the production began when, according to a September 1953 Daily Variety news item, Garland's longtime musical arranger, Hugh "Skip" Martin, walked out of the project after an argument with her during the recording of "Lose That Long Face." Art director Lemuel Ayers, who appears on an early Hollywood Reporter production chart, was replaced by Malcolm Bert, who, according to a modern source, became ill. Modern sources state that the start of shooting was postponed due to Garland, who did not show up on the first day, and that her friend Harry Rubin was hired by Jack L. Warner to ensure that she got to the studio on time each morning. According to several contemporary
news items and articles, the production was burdened by Garland's anxiety attacks and drinking problems.
       An October 1953 Daily Variety news item reported that the producers planned to shoot the film in the then popular 3-D format, but by the start of filming, the crew was shooting in WarnerScope. Eight days into shooting, according to various October 1953 Daily Variety, Variety and Los Angeles Herald Express news items, the studio decided that "the story is too intimate for WarnerScope" and arranged with Twentieth Century-Fox to use their new process, CinemaScope. Production halted while Twentieth Century's Milton Krasner conducted test shots of the production number "The Man That Got Away." A modern source states that footage already shot was then scrapped at a cost of $300,000. The change in format resulted in Sam Leavitt replacing Winton Hoch as director of photography. Hoch had earlier replaced Harry Stradling, when delays caused a scheduling conflict with another of Stradling's assignments, Helen of Troy.
       According to modern sources, after "The Man That Got Away" number was reshot, it was decided that Garland's costume, designed by M-G-M's Mary Ann Nyberg, did not hide the actress's figure flaws when seen in the new format. Designer Jean Louis was brought in from Columbia to redesign some of the costumes and take over. Both designers were given credit onscreen. Another scene that was reshot was part of a fight sequence involving Mason, which had not been completed in WarnerScope, according to a Daily Variety news item, because of delays brought on by a brief illness suffered by the actor. A modern source reports that, by Thanksgiving, the film was nineteen days behind schedule and its budget raised to $4 million.
       A September 1953 Daily Variety news item reported that New Yorker cartoonist Saul Steinberg was hired to design the sets for the "Lose That Long Face" number. However, that sequence was one of several cut from the film after the release and he was not credited onscreen. According to a February 15, 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item, filming was completed on 13 Feb, but two songs were going into rehearsal that week. After principal photography was completed, Garland shot a production number that was tentatively titled "Dancing Partners," according to an April 1954 Hollywood Reporter news item. According to a modern source, director George Cukor was scheduled to direct the film Bhowani Junction in India, so dance director Jack Donahue, and then choreographer Richard Barstow, directed the number, "Lose That Long Face." Several dramatic scenes were also reshot around this time. According to a modern source, the last sequence to be shot was the "Born in a Trunk" medley, and shooting was finally completed at the end of July 1954.
       Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, Hollywood Reporter news items add the following performers to the cast: Don McCay, Monette Moore, Wally Ruth, Lauren Chapin, Del Armstrong, Frank Wilcox, Tex Brodus, James Gonzales, Frank Gerstle, Caryl Lincoln, Tom Cound, Onslow Stevens, Dorothy Marinson and the NBC music director Henry Russell as a studio conductor.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, portions of the film were shot in the following locations: the Shrine Auditorium, Westside Drive-In and exterior of the Central Police Station in Los Angeles, several stores, Holmby Hills, Malibu, and streets and homes in Beverly Hills, CA. A Hollywood Reporter news item reported that the funeral sequence was shot at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Santa Monica, CA.
       Lavish premieres in Los Angeles and New York were planned for the film, which was advertised as costing $6 million and taking ten months to make. According to a modern source, Warner held an after-performance party at the Cocoanut Grove, a nightclub that is depicted in the film. A September 1954 Hollywood Citizen-News article reported that the success of the upcoming Los Angeles premiere would make or break Garland's future career. Although reviews were generally favorable, Jack Moffit of Hollywood Reporter complained that the 182-minute long film lacked an intermission. Despite recent successes of other lengthy films, such as Warner's The High and the Mighty and the reissue of Gone With the Wind (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), the length was a source of controversy, as the studio's head of distribution and some exhibitors feared lost box office revenue would result from being able to show the film no more than three times a day.
       After the premiere, the film was cut by thirty minutes, removing some of the development of the relationship between Norman and Esther in the first reel and musical numbers "Lose That Long Face" and "Here's What I'm Here For." According to modern sources, both Cukor, who was not involved in the re-editing, and Garland were unhappy with the choice of cuts. A December 1954 Variety news item reported that the board of directors of the Independent Theatre Owners of Ohio formally asked that exhibitors be allowed to choose which format length to show. However, according to a modern source, most theater owners ran the shorter version to allow more daily showings, so that few contemporary audience members had the opportunity to see the complete version.
       The film garnered many nominations for Academy Awards, but no wins, a fact many film historians attribute to the release of the shorter, less powerful version. Mason and Garland were nominated for Best Actor and Actress, respectively, but lost to Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront and Grace Kelly in The Country Girl. Garland, who had given birth to a son days before the ceremony, was unable to attend the event, but NBC got permission to install her bedroom with a camera, in order to broadcast her acceptance speech if she won. A modern source states that, when she lost, thousands of people sent her consolatory telegrams. According to the modern source, a telegram from Groucho Marx read: "Dear Judy: This is the biggest robbery since Brinks." Marx was referring to one of the biggest bank robberies in U.S. history that had occurred four years earlier, in which a group of armed robbers stole almost three million dollars in cash, checks, money orders and other securities from the Brinks Building in Boston, MA.
       Other Oscar nominations included the art direction and set decoration of Malcolm Bert, Gene Allen, Irene Sharaff and George James Hopkins for Achievement in Art Direction; Harold Arlen's song, "The Man That Got Away"; and costume designers Jean Louis, Mary Ann Nyberg and Irene Sharaff. Although Ray Heindorf was nominated for the Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, he lost to Adolph Deutsch and Saul Chapin of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
       March 1955 Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety news items reported that the Selznick Releasing Organization filed suit against Warner to restrain the 1955 version of A Star Is Born from being released outside the United States, United Kingdom and Czechoslovakia, where Selznick still retained rights to exhibit the 1937 version. The outcome of this dispute has not been determined.
       Despite the success of A Star Is Born, Garland's career continued to decline. Her last years were marred by lawsuits, nervous breakdowns, divorces and custody battles. In the early 1960s, she gave a successful Carnegie Hall concert performance, and appeared in a handful of films, among them, two United Artist films, Judgment at Nuremberg and A Child Is Waiting (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70). Although she was considered for a role in Valley of the Dolls (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70), the part was given to Susan Hayward. Garland hosted a television variety show, The Judy Garland Show, which aired on the CBS network during the 1963-64 season, but it was cancelled early in the season. Her live concert performances were so troubled by her undependability and the decline of her voice that she was jeered at by a London audience. Although she planned future performances, on June 22, 1969, she was found in the bathroom by her fifth husband dead from an overdose of sleeping pills. After her death, her stardom grew to cult status.
       Over the years, the thirty minutes of excised footage from the 1955 A Star Is Born was mourned by Garland's fans, who felt that its absence diminished her performance. After a June 1969 Daily Variety news item reported that the Granada Theatre in Los Angeles was showing a reissue of the uncut, 182 minute version of A Star Is Born, a later June 1969 Daily Variety news item disputed it, having discovered that the presentation was only 154 minutes long.
       According to an April 1983 New York Times article, interest was resumed in the film when clips were shown at a 1981 tribute to Ira Gershwin. Several 1983 articles reported the following: With the support of Academy president Fay Kanin, Ron Haver, who was then head of the film department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, sought and received permission to spend his two-week vacation searching Warner vaults for the missing footage. The museum extended Haver a six-month leave of absence to continue his search and Warner chairman Richard Daly committed $30,000 to the project. Eventually, Haver found footage of Norman proposing to Esther. Later, the two missing songs and other dramatic footage were recovered. With the help of Gene Allen, the rediscovered footage was pieced together with publicity stills and added to an original stereo soundtrack, which the studio had kept intact. Members of the restoration project included Liz Bechtold Blyth, Eric Durst, Craig Holst and D. J. Ziegler. The restored film was premiered in the summer of 1983. Cukor died the night before a special screening of the restored footage that was held at AMPAS' Samuel Goldwyn Theater on 24 January 1983.
       The 1937 Selznick production of A Star Is Born was directed by William A. Wellman and starred Fredric March and Janet Gaynor (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). In 1976, Jon Peters produced a remake of A Star Is Born for Warner, which was directed by Frank Pierson and starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. A July 2002 People magazine article reported that Will Smith had negotiated with Sony Pictures to star in a reversed-role version of the story. At the time of the announcement, Smith stated that he hoped to cast Jennifer Lopez in the new production, but, as of spring 2005, she was no longer attached to the project, which Joel Schumacher was signed to direct.