***/**** Image A Sound A Extras B
starring Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Tom Noonan
screenplay by Moss Hart, based on the screenplay by Dorothy Parker & Alan Campbell & Robert Carson
directed by George Cukor
by Walter Chaw A big, giant mess of a movie, big, giant mess of a director George Cukor's A Star is Born--a remake of the 1937 Janet Gaynor vehicle as well as Cukor's own 1932 What Price Hollywood?--finds big, giant mess of a gay icon Judy Garland quivering gallantly on the razor's edge of total mental collapse for 176 famously-restored minutes. A miracle of single-mindedness and dedication to the film-preservation cause? No doubt. A movie that could easily withstand 90 minutes of liberal pruning? Indeed. And unlike that question posed rhetorically of Joseph II in Amadeus, it's all too obvious which bits need trimming. Start with the 20-minute (might as well be 20-hour) "Born in a Trunk" number, inserted by Jack Warner unbeknownst to Cukor and intended to showcase Garland's then-healthy stage act. A "showstopper" in every sense of the word, it's unbelievably bad and, more than bad, it betrays everything that's worked about A Star is Born up to that point. A film-within-a-film-within-a-film, it has Judy vamping her way through a series of surreal set-pieces, telling her origin story while doing a medley of standards from the Warner catalogue. It's painful for all the wrong reasons.