Monday, 31 January 2011

A Star is Born

As has been mentioned before I am taking the opportunity of HD TV to see again films from the past seven decades and although familiar with A Star is Born and the performance of Judy Harland my attention this occasion was directed to James Mason. She was nominated for the best actress Oscar which was one by Grace Kelly. She was sin hospital giving birth to her son Joey at the time. Mason was also nominated for an Oscar and with Judy won Golden Globes. She took a Bafta also in that year.

Mason plays Norman Maine a matinee idol whose career is in decline and has taken to drinking binges in which he becomes aggressive and difficult to control. He crashes on to the stage of a show where Garland in performing and she behaves as if he part of the act and arouses applause for the appearance. He is grateful and watches her perform in an after hours club and tells her she has talent and should stay rather than go off with the band where she is the soloist. He triggers the ambition within her and she stays although doe snot expect he will follow up his offer to introduce her to his film studios.

He is serious in his intention but is called away to begin location filming and although he tried to get into contact he cannot remember her address. His effort to find her fail until he hears a voice over commercial he is successful this time and arranges an audition at the film studios where she is taken on as a contract artist. This means a weekly pay cheque and access to studio facilities and media but not necessarily a major move part, Knowing that the studio are looking for a lead in a new musical he arranges for the studio head to hear her sing and she gets the part, is given a name change, the film is a success and she becomes internally famous. The relationship between the two develops and she takes the initiative in suggesting marriage which he is hesitant knowing his problems and track record. Te film hen shows them having a wonderfully happy relationship as she becomes an internationally recognised actor and performer and his career comes to an end and he loses himself in alcohol.. The problem reaches a climax when she receives an Oscar and in a drunken state attempts to join her on stage and accidentally hits her in the face, He enters a recovery centre and with her support makes progress.

In the past he has used his position to tell the studio publicist what to do and refused to cooperate in planned publicity for their marriage. When they meet up at a race track he his taunted by the publicist about his situation and they fight, goes on a drinking binge and is arrested. He is taken home and goes to bed but overhears his wife saying she plans to give up her career to care for him. He breaks down at the thought of what he has done to himself and his wife and walks into the nearby ocean to drown. She becomes a recluse in her distress and a friend asks her to honour a previous commitment to appear at a Charity show and when she appears she is invited to say a few words to the international audience. She says Hello everybody, This is Mrs Norman Maine and the audience bursts into a standing ovation and the films ends with understanding that she continues in the career which is what her husband wanted.

The back story is that the Director George Cukor wanted Cary Grant in to play Maine but he refused because he did not want to appear with Garland who had become a drug addict and her reputation for unreliability. Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and Stewart Granger were all considered before the British actor was offered and accepted the role. The film was originally three hours in length and then cut down to two and a half hours. The film manages to combine the best of the Hollywood musical of the era with a drama about a subject which continues to ruin lives at all levels of society.

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