Part of The 100 Greatest Movies I’ve Ever Seen list.
dir. George Cukor (1954) scr. Moss Hart based on a story by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson cin. Sam Leavitt with Judy Garland and James Mason
In 100 words: An exuberant, joyous, but surprisingly moving experience, This remake features a shockingly honest treatment of topics that do not always spring to mind when one thinks of a musical: alcoholism, suicide, and emasculation. But Cukor’s exploration of a woman’s rise in Hollywood coinciding with her husband’s downfall is simultaneously sweeping and miniscule; a grand time and a rainy-day weepie at the same time. Songs are perfectly staged to maximize impact, while vivid colors and precise editing keep the experience engaging. All this topped by two of the 50s’ most incredible performances: Garland and Mason’s duet is one for the ages.
Other Movies for Context: Obviously, there are the two other A Star is Born films from the 30s and 70s, with Janet Gaynor and Barbra Streisand respectively in the Judy Garland role. But as far as musicals that were this dark? I think of New York, New York (1977) by Martin Scorsese, starring Garland’s daughter Liza and Meet Me in St. Louis, Vincent Minnelli’s movie musical starring Judy Garland.