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A Star Is Born

Were it not for Judy Garland's show-stopping renditions of “The Man that Got Away” and “Born in a Trunk,” one might almost forget to call A Star Is Born a musical, so brilliant and unforgettable are the acting performances. But of course it is a musical - and one of the best, precisely because of the almost off-the-cuff skill with which Cukor films the musical numbers. And Garland integrates them beautifully into her portrayal of Vicky Lester (née Esther Blodgett), the band singer discovered and made into a star by an ex-matinee idol (James Mason) whose drunken decline is inextricably connected to her rise. Garland's range is incredible: from the casual aside to the passionate delivery, her concentration is almost palpable. But the truly singular performance in the film is given by James Mason as the ironic, suave, entertaining, and ultimately self-destructive Norman Main.
“He is the most likable of all the many sympathetically drawn drunks in Cukor's films. Cukor's sympathy toward alcoholics may stem from his friendship with John Barrymore, but it is, more importantly, symptomatic of the director's unwillingness to judge his characters because of their weakness.” --Gary Carey, “Cukor & Co.”

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