I should be ashamed of myself. In all my years, the only Judy Garland movie I have ever seen is "The Wizard of Oz" (my second fave flick of all time, next to “Auntie Mame”). Mind you, I've seen “Wizard” 5,000 times... but that doesn't make up for the fact that I’ve never ventured further into Garland’s career.
Rosalind Russell, seen every film. James Dean, I intimately know, well, all three. Joan Crawford, Meryl Streep, Liz Taylor, Jessica Lange, Sal Mineo, Brittany Murphy, Adrian Pasdar... have seen much of their work… but somehow, I missed the boat on Judy.
The version of "A Star Is Born" that I rented runs almost three hours—with footage restored and missing scenes even recreated with still photos [in 1983]—and it was a long haul… and I’m not an enormous fan of musicals in general (except for “Grease” and “Xanadu,” baby!)… but boy, what a ride.
Every once in a while, there were glimpses of "Wizard's" Dorothy in Garland’s Oscar-nominated (and Golden Globe-winning) performance as Vicki Lester. Of course, like most, I know every word, every utterance of “Oz,” and hearing the tremor in her voice, the way she weeps, certain phrasing, was so familiar… But this was definitely a grown-up Garland. Of course, who wouldn’t be bowled over by her performance of Oscar-winning song “The Man That Got Away.” Sorry, I suppose I should turn in my gay card, because I didn’t realize it was hers. Mesmerizing. And the tour-de-force emotional finale, where she argues before agreeing to attend the benefit… powerful acting.
Interesting to note that director George Cukor had little interest in James Mason for the male lead (who also got an Oscar nod). He wanted Carey Grant, who turned it down. Could have done wonders for his range and reputation. Cukor also considered Frank Sinatra; can you imagine how gorgeous that would have been? Mason was all right… but it was definitely Judy’s film. An amazing experience.
P.S. My god, is my gay flick factor being further compromised? Tonight's entertainment is the 2009 version of "Star Trek," a man film! Har, har, just kidding. You don't think I'm watching this for any reason other than dreamy Chris Pine, do you?