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George At 

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A Star is Born

As a big fan of the 1976 Streisand/Kristofferson version of A STAR IS BORN, I had never seen the classic 1954 version starring James Mason and Judy Garland.

Full transparency, I've never been a fan of Garland. Too mannered, too over the top. Hell I never even liked "The Wizard of Oz" as a kid, so I was in no hurry to see this.

I was surprised just how great Garland is in this film, a major comeback for her in 1954. She plays Esther, a talented lounge singer looking for her big break. It arrives in the alcoholic, troubled Norman Maine, perfectly played by a young and terrific James Mason.

Norman campaigns to get Esther her break and soon she's renamed Vicki Lester and rises to stardom.

The film gives Garland plenty of opportunities to sing, including a great, quiet opening lounge number "The Man That Got Away" all the way to watching her perform huge production numbers on her movie sets.

Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin deliver song after song, but as the nearly three hour story unfolds, you realize its less a Hollywood musical than it is a drama about alcoholism and two people whose fame and stardom are on opposite arcs.

Mason is very good and his pain & regret at the end of the Oscar sequence and in the film's conclusion are surprisingly realistic. His performance holds up very well today. more than 60 years later.

But Garland's performance is the real surprise for me. With none of the usual Garland/Liza over the top mannerisms that drive me crazy in their films, Garland is powerful and realistic from the opening scene to the last.

Director George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, My Fair Lady) brings old Hollywood class and style to this often retold story.

We're already looking forward to the newest version starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper that will hit theatres in May 2018.

If you've never seen this classic, check it out. There's a reason it's considered an American classic.

It gets a CinemaScope wide, respectful A.

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