Musical Monday: A Star is Born
Yes, it’s A Star is Born! The depressing musical inside look at tinsel town and how substance abuse can ruin both a marriage and a career! With Judy Garland! And SHE’s the sober one! Haha! Irony!
Judy is there too with her Main Gay. She takes one look at a drunk in a sequined hat partying with drag queens and she thinks “There’s the man I’m going to marry.” Yes, her character’s name is Esther, but they could put her in a nun’s habit (and they almost did here) and she’d still be Judy.
If we can get serious for a mo, there are a lot of good reasons to see this film. It’s probably Judy’s best dramatic performance; for its time, it’s a remarkably cynical take on fame and a somewhat shockingly raw look at alcoholism; and there are some great numbers to watch, the best of which is this one, Judy’s famous rendition of “The Man That Got Away.” It pains us to say this, but we can’t find a clip of this scene anywhere on YouTube.
There’s a lot of yadda yadda yadda, but the upshot is Norman goes off to shoot a film, forgetting about Judy, and she works a string of demeaning jobs until Norman finds her again and takes her to the studio to sign a contract.
Next stop in the starmaking machine:
Later, she visits the studio’s wardrobe department, populated by old bitches, sturdy lesbians, and wispy gay men. Somewhere along the way, the studio changes her name to Vicki Lester (but she’s still Judy).
If you’ve read any of our previous Judy-centric Musical Mondays, you’ll remember that we have always been appalled at how badly the studios dressed her back in the day. Periodically, we’ll do wardrobe checks on her. Like here, for instance. Not bad. Color’s good, silhouette’s good and she doesn’t look like she’s 20 years older than her age for once.
Anyway, here’s the famous “Born in a Trunk” sequence from said film within a film. It’s a bit long, but you’ve got to stay till the end (or just click on part 2) to hear her bring down the house with “Swannee.” There’s also a great rendition of “Melancholy Baby” in there.
Another party in their swanky modern Malibu house. Wardrobe check: Our eyeballs are bleeding. What crackhead came up with that little number? We realize Judy had a less than ideal figure and her weight was all over the place during the filming of this movie, but no one, at any weight, is going to look good in that monstrosity.
Y’know, you could make the argument that technically, this film isn’t a musical because all of the singing occurs in-story, meaning, when a character breaks into song, it’s not the spontaneous thing one usually associates with classic musicals. All the big numbers occur either on a stage or on a set. They cleverly got around it in this scene by having Judy show hubby what she’s been working on all day at the studio. It’s not a particularly great song, but it is something of a wicked sendup of musical conventions and a bit of Judy parodying herself.
Still, it’s weird how these two rarely so much as kiss. He watches and she performs. That’s the entirety of their marriage.
And uh-oh! What’s this?
Check out the redhead on the left. She is just HORRIFIED to be so near a drunk person. “He’s going to bite me!” Bitch on the right is all “Pff. Whatever. Pussy can’t hold his liquor.”
Norman stumbles on stage and slaps Judy during her acceptance speech. Y’know, the Oscar producers should take a good look at this when they’re planning the next one. Let’s face it, we’d all happily sit through a 9-hour broadcast if there was the possibility of Gwyneth Paltrow getting slapped in front of billions.
Oh well, Judy. Your husband ruined your big moment, but at least your wardrobe is looking up. What will they put you in next?
Which sums up this whole number. Judy is of indeterminate age and gender and sings and dances in front of a company wearing clothes of no particular place or period on a set that could represent almost anywhere in the world.
Judy tearfully tells the head of the studio that Norman has checked himself into rehab. He tries to appear sympathetic, but he’s having a hard time not showing his horror at what his makeup and wardrobe departments did to his star.
So, how did that whole rehab thing work out for Norman?
After she talks the judge out of sending him to jail, she tells the studio head guy (who has a name, but hell, who pays attention to that sort of thing when there’s so much DRAMA going on?) that she’s going to quit her career and devote all her time to making sure her husband stays on the wagon.
Later, Judy sits in her big mansion in the dark, crying and feeling sorry for herself. Her Main Gay shows up and gives her the Bitchslap to End All Bitchslaps. “Listen, Missy, you are going to slap on some makeup, strap your tits into a pushup bra, put on a shitty dress, and go out there and show them you’re a STAR!”