The 1954 version of A Star is Born has in it the bones of a great film. It is not, however, the great film it’s reputed to be.
I should start by noting that our enjoyment of this was marred by the fact that the sound was out of sync. We rented it from Apple TV on our Roku box, and it was out from the start. I tried all the suggestions I could find online to fix it, short of a factory reset. Thing is, all of those were about the sound being out of sync on the Roku.
But the Roku was fine, in every other app, and in other things in the Apple TV app (great to have The Morning Show back). No, the problem here was that particular file, it seemed like.
Maybe there was a way we could have forced a redownload of it, and got a different version. If so, it wasn’t to be found.
But you adjust, you put up with things. We were startled half an hour or so in (to a three hour film, I note) when the video stopped and was replaced with a sepia-toned still image. Clearly a production still. The audio, and the story, carried on. The picture changed to another still. Visuals came back, to a long shot. Then another still.
This was strange enough that it deserved duckducking. Turns out we were seeing the result of studio meddling. It seems a producer, believing it was too long, made the decision to cut it. Without the director.
And later the studio, in a BBC-Doctor Who-video-wiping level of stupidity, melted the offcuts down to reclaim the silver.
Thing is, the producer may have been wrong at the time — according to that story, the shortened version was less popular — and he was certainly wrong in what he cut; but he wasn’t wrong about the film being overlong.
That may be unfair. Three-hour films can work perfectly well, after all. No, the edits should have been made at the scrip stage.
Or maybe at directing.Because this film is incoherent at times. A sudden cut and it’s months or years later with no sense of what went on in between. That can be fine, it can work well. Except here it felt like they had a series of scenes that they wanted to show, and they just bashed them together without a thought for how the story would flow.
There are some great moments. Judy Garland has a fantastic voice, of course, and is a perfectly fine actor, and a very good physical actor, it turns out.
A great voice, rubbish songs, unfortunately. Getting her to sing a song that includes the word ‘somewhere’ does not make it as good as the song she’s most famous for.
Honestly, that and the song-within-a-film-within-the-film (‘Born in a Trunk’, I think it was called) are as much as I remember about the music.
I’m sort of keen to see if the seventies or twenty-tens versions are better. I’ve got to imagine they must be.