The legendary film that is a showcase for the talents of Judy Garland, "A Star is Born," leads all new titles arriving on Blu-ray this week.
Garland and her dynamic voice were never better than in "A Star is Born," which looks great in high definition. The movie comes packaged in book-style format with an extra disc that contains such extras as alternate takes, deleted scenes, Garland's audio recording sessions and more.
The history of the production is almost as absorbing as the film itself. Directed by George Cukor, it was originally released on a limited basis with a running time of 181 minutes. Warner Bros. felt it was too long and had "A Star is Born" trimmed to 151 minutes. Instead of shelving the edited footage, the studio had the negatives destroyed.
In the 1983, the film was re-introduced in a 176-minute edition thanks to the reconstruction efforts of film historian Ronald Haver, who spent months combing through studio vaults. It was a project that earned Warner Bros.' backing.
Haver uncovered the entire 181-minute soundtrack, footage of three lost musical numbers and parts of the deleted dialogue. Where no film existed, Haver inserted stills. Five minutes of audio was trimmed here and there because no appropriate photos could be found. Meanwhile, the surviving film footage was cleaned up and went through an extensive restoration process. It is Haver's work that is on display in the Blu-ray edition.
Garland portrays Esther Blodgett, a singer with a traveling band. James Mason plays Norman Maine, a movie star whose career is on the wane because he can't stay away from alcohol. When he hears Esther sing, he is convinced she is star material and persuades his studio to sign her to a contract.
This 1954 version of "A Star is Born" was nominated for six Academy Awards and is ranked seventh of the American Film Institute's Best Musicals of the 20th century. It is a terrific piece of filmmaking that is highly recommended.
DVD, $20.98; Blu-ray, $34.99