Tag: Judy Garland
I’ve spent the past 3 1/2 days and nights working on a proposal. Being my usual Excel and pricing idiot self (a particularly bad combination), I had to forego sleep to get it done. I started on Weds afternoon, stayed up all night, slept a bit Thursday evening, then was up again all night last night. I barely moved from my chair and Tigger thinks I’m nuts (again). But, this afternoon I finished with pricing hell, so I decided to treat myself – for as long as I remain awake.
About 40 minutes ago I pulled up the 1954 masterpiece, “A Star Is Born”, starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The experience compelled me to write this blog – even as I continue to watch.
If you’re too young to know or were living under a rock, Judy Garland did much more after her turn as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz at the tender age of 17. As she matured, so did her voice. It is not arguable that she possessed one of the greatest vocal instruments of the 20th century – or of any century. This film, which was produced by Judy’s then-husband Sidney Luft and had some the world’s best musical, staging, songwriting, directing, screenwriting and acting talent then extant – reflects Garland at her absolute peak as a performing artist – both as a singer (and hoofer) – and as an actresss. Mason’s performance is as brilliant as hers.
It is not a typical musical. It’s not a typical anything. The director, George Cukor, considered it his masterpiece. (Google him and you’ll understand why _that_’s impressive.) The screenplay was written by Moss Hart. Harold Arlen – who wrote the music for The Wizard of Oz , among many other things – and Ira Gershwin who was – well, one of the Gershwins – wrote the music and lyrics. The staging is incredible, with all the glitz Hollywood was known for in the heyday of the studio systems – which were, by then, in their twilight years.
And despite all that – or because of it – it is a startlingly dark film, dealing with the ravages of addiction, the cynicism of the performing industry, and the price of fame. Judy Garland’s performance is a mirror of sorts – in her own life she was both Esther Blodgett, the uber-talented singing star who came up through the studio system, and she was Norman Maine, the addicted, creative, funny, talented and self-destructive alcoholic at the center of the plot.
I’ve seen the movie many times, including attending the premier of the restoration in 1983. Busy as I have been, I vaguely remembered hearing that the restored version was being remastered to digital, scanned in 6K, and would be released sometime this summer. Streaming from Netflix direct to my HD TV, therefore, I was expecting good clarity. I got it, along with a color pallette with much more depth than I had ever seen it before.
What I was NOT expecting was the audio.
Oh. My. God. I knew the project had not only remastered but remixed the sound. And for most of my life, I’ve heard that voice and wondered what it would’ve sounded like on modern equipment. This is as close as I will ever come, I think -and I was not prepared.
Garland’s voice – and her command of it – are legendary, and rightfully so. With regard to vocal quality, it was unique, multilayered, and instantly recognizable. Then there’s her sheer power. Just how this little 5’1/2″ woman produced all that extraordinary sound no one will ever know. It was evident in her early teens, and when in top form as an adult, no one could touch her. Mind you, I have heard, or own, most of her recordings. But nothing – not even Toto and “Over the Rainbow” – can hold a candle to the sheer emotional, auditory and artistic power of Judy Garland opening up on “The Man Who Got Away” with the digitally remastered soundtrack of A Star is Born. I spent the 4 1/2 minutes of that song alternately spellbound and exclaiming out loud. (As a rule, I don’t exclaim out loud when watching films.)
As I type this, the film is moving to “Born in a Trunk”, which is a tour de force I am looking forward to. So please excuse me while I resume being spellbound by my very first artistic muse – from whom I learned, and continue to learn, a great deal. She guided my musical life – particularly onstage for cabaret or musical theater – for 25 years. And while (as noted elsewhere on this site) I had set it – and her – aside, as of this very moment, she’s back.
(I really, really need to get back on stage. Where the hell did I put that fedora??? Actually, there’s more than one. I should do a blog on fedoras. But I digress…)
If you haven’t seen the film – it’s on Blue Ray in HD, or streams in HD from Netflix and from other sites as well. There is more on it here, including the standing ovation given to Garland when the digital version premiered about 6 weeks ago – a standing ovation for a film now 56 years old, honoring a star who has been dead for four decades.
Funny – not tired any more. In the slightest.