Jun 10, 2006

It Hasn't Lost Its Glitter

Judy Garland is a star. She's a beautiful child-talent-cum-teenage-sensation who, despite struggles with the studio and several debilitating health issues, went on to achieve unanimous acclaim as a vocalist throughout the 1950's and '60's. Her presence in movies like Meet Me In Saint Louis and The Wizard of Oz is simply unforgettable; her concert performances are the stuff of legends. Yes, our girl Judy is a star: enduring, glittering, luminous.

What a surprise, then, that prior to screening 1954's A Star Is Born this weekend, Dame Judy's star status had somehow slipped my mind. At nearly three hours long, the newly-restored director's version tells the tale (or re-tells, if you've seen the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March) of a faded alcoholic movie star (Mason) and his relationship, both professional and personal, with aspiring singer Esther Blodgett (Garland, in a role that was tailor-made for her sensational stage presence). The storyline is compelling enough - to watch the pair's careers struggle valiantly to synchronize in success and remain buoyant in defeat is sadly captivating, and the movie is perfectly punctuated with staggeringly spectacular musical numbers, both dazzling, upbeat songs and hauntingly melancholy ballads (Garland's The Man That Got Away is a landmark moment in the history of the musical - quite possibly the most impressive and memorable song ever filmed).
We here at Hillary's Classic Cinema salute you, Miss Frances Gumm - it was a long and troubled road from Minnesotan plains to the skies of Hollywood legends, dotted with stars - but you made it most gracefully, leaving behind a bright, beaming legacy that still lights our world today.

Judy Garland would have celebrated her 84th birthday today, June 10, 2006.

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