A Star is Born (1954) is the first remake to the 1937 original. Being released in the 50’s, the type of star was changed from Hollywood actress to musical starlet. Since musical productions were the biggest thing at the time. So it only made sense that they cast Judy Garland as the lead. Her role was something of a comeback considering she hadn’t acted since 1950. It’s easily one of the best performances of her career (after The Wizard of Oz). Which is why her Best actress loss is perhaps the biggest upset in Oscar history. Unfortunately some of the movie’s footage was lost too. So it had to be replaced with black & white images.
This version of A Star is Born is the closest to the original. Esther Blodgett (Vicki Lester) and Norman Maine have the same names and motivations. Only the story picks up when Esther has a modest career as a stage singer. She meets a drunk Norman Maine while she’s performing. He wastes no time trying to convince her to quit her band and become an even bigger star. Her only concern is believing she doesn’t look good enough. That’s when he tells her “Hey, I just wanted to take another look.”
English actor James Mason plays this Norman as both assertive and sympathetic. Especially during the Oscar sequence when he begs for a job. Big musical numbers are given a bit more focus than their relationship, but it’s still a strong part of the 3 hour movie. Their best moment has to be when she performs exclusively for him. Thanks to the strong performances, Norman’s alcoholic spiral is a lot more tragic. With the addition of songs like “The Man that got Away,” A Star is Born (1954) set the standard for this simple tale of rising fame.
Remake of: A Star is Born (1937)