Judy Garland starred in this musical remake of the 1937 drama of the same name, starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March.
The tried and trusted tale is of Esther Blodgett, an aspiring young singer who reaches the upper echelons of success as Vicky Lester, only to have her heart broken by her film star husband, Norman Maine, who descends into alcoholism.
It’s a strong story well told, and British actor James Mason as Maine (a role that was turned down by Cary Grant and Humphrey Bogart) is superb. But the film is really Garland’s triumph . . .
She gives it her all with a mixture of pluckiness and vulnerability that tugs at the heart, and in her musical numbers is nothing short of magnificent (helped along by a magnificent score – including songs by Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart and others).
Judy, by this time, was 32 and, given the stresses in her life and her nerves and the pills and the booze, the fact that she managed to play a very young woman who lovingly cherishes her wreck of a star – a path she found herself on more and more frequently – was an amazing achievement.
It is nigh-impossible to single out the high spots as there are so many, but the lengthy Born In A Trunk routine, written by Leonard Gershe, impresses, and Garland reveals the full range of her vocal and interpretive powers in The Man That Got Away.
The running time of 154 minutes is not inconsiderable, but it is nonetheless sad to note that studio chief Jack Warner demanded the removal of almost half-an-hour of film which included two new numbers specially written by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin.
Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester