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« Meryl Streep's "Fight Song"and Female Biopics| Main| Golden Globes 77.A Look Back »
Wednesday
Jul 27 2016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Man That Got Away"

When Judy Garland and George Cukor madeA Star Is Bornfor Warner Bros,both Judy and the industry were changing.The Paramount CaseandThe De Havilland rulinghad weakened the paternalistic power of the studio system by forcing studios to sell their theaters and release their stars,while widescreen technology changed the shape of the movies.Similarly,Judy's previously squeaky-clean MGM image had transformed.In the early 1950s,she divorced Vincente Minnelli,married Sidney Luft,survived a suicide attempt and rehab and launched a successful concert series and an even more successful concert album.It was no coincidence that in the middle of this maelstrom Judy Garland's comeback vehicle was a remake of a 1937 Technicolor classic.

The Movie:A Star is Born(Warner Bros 1954)
The Songwriter:Harold Arlen (music),Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
The Players:Judy Garland,James Mason,Jack Carson,Charles Bickford,directed by George Cukor

I'm breaking with tradition slightly,but today I want to show you three versions of Judy's famous version of "The Man That Got Away."

In the first,the restaurant is too brightly lit with too many patrons,though the number more closely resembles the MGM Judy Garland numbers that inspired it.

In the second clip,colors and lighting are more muted,but Judy blends in to the background and the band in her brown dress.

The final version is the one used in the film - Judy stands almost alone in the spotlight,belting a mournful song and somehow rejoicing in it.

It's easy to read into the success ofA Star Is Bornin tapping into Judy Garland's star persona.With her private life so publically on display,the story of Judy Garland lays neatly on top of the story of Vicky Lester as a meta text: when Vicky battles Norman's alcoholism,Judy could be fighting her own demons externalized.However,these three alternate takes show how carefully this image is constructed from well-placed lights,new staging,and one incredible performance.

No matter how iconic the scene was,as a movieA Star is Bornwas not the comeback vehicle Judy had hoped.Warner Bros heavily edited the film for runtime,and ultimately the movie didn't make much of a profit.At the 1955 Academy Awards,Judy Garland lost the Oscar to Grace Kelly.Judy would stay away from movies for another 5 years after that,but her career was about to get much more interesting.

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Reader Comments (17)

The filmed musical performance of a lifetime.In order to fully appreciate its transcendence,one must not only watch these three versions,but also"Over the Rainbow"inThe Wizard of Ozand"It Never Was You"fromI Could Go On Singing,as well as theScorsese/Minnelli/Kander/Ebb/Kovács homageinNew York,New York.

Just do it.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

OMG THREE Judy's!!!!!!!!!!!!!!You are so right,the last one is best for the movie and best visually..........
I find the first one so charming.She is having a great time with the band.And maybe too much fun,this song is supposed to foreshadow her love of Norman Maine.
Love the beginning two shot with Tommy Noonan in the second one and how Judy is framed by the instruments in the last shot.
Of course the last is the famous continuous shot.Was this Cukor ‘s idea or Sam Leavitt?I wonder how much of this shot was borne of her concert tour.Feet planted firmly on the ground with the beginning of Judy flung out gestures.
So much happens but it is all subtle;the frame of the brass on the left at the song's first transition to the bridge.The blue dress is also helped by the white peter pan collar that gives her face a halo effect.
Thank you so much Anne Marie

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie19

This is,possibly,my favorite number of all time from any musical.Everything about it is perfect.Recently I went to a cabaret show called Molly Pope: A Star is Born"in which she basically acted out the entire movie in song for an hour and a half and I'm like how is she going to pull this off since the movie peaks so early with this number but it was magical.and she reworked The Man That Got Away for the finale too.

It occurred to me after attending that I'd just seen Rufus Wainwright's "Judy Judy Judy"encore concert just under a week before so I am officially the gayest person alive.

sorry not sorry.

July 27,2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

And thank you for showcasing the three versions.It's such an elegant reminder of the craftsmanship of cinema,one change in lighting or costume or performance can make such a crucial difference to the tone.Imagine the 1000s of decisions filmmakers have to make every single day.So when a movie turns out perfect what a miracle.

July 27,2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

1954's Oscars were disappointing all around,亚博主页but I think the single biggest injustice was that The Man that Got Away lost best song to the clunky Three Coins in the Fountain.And this is a category that I don't normally care about.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Tawfik

It is fascinating to see the three numbers side by side.When I saw the restored version during it's brief theatrical run after the restoration the second clip was shown just before the film,they had just discovered it thinking it lost with so much of the original material.They absolutely made the right decision on the final version.

There is an excellent book about the efforts of so many to bring the film back to as close to its original form after Warners hacked it to bits called "A Star Is Born: The Making of the 1954 Movie and its 1983 Restoration"by Ron Haver.It is so informative not just about the process involved in this film but film preservation,and loss,in general.

Incredible what had been excised from this both the recording studio proposal scene and the Lose That Long Face number which add so much to the story were snipped out completely!

July 27,2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Anne Marie,you are doing Judy's musical cameo inPepenext week,right?;-)

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Nathaniel - That is actually the gayest thing I have ever heard.I am seriously impressed,and wish I could have gone too!

Paul Outlaw - Of course!Wouldn't pass up a chance to talk about the only movie starring Judy Garland and Cantinflas!

joel6 - The Ron Haver book (and his restoration) were actually part of what got me into film preservation as a profession!Read it in undergrad,decided I desperately wanted to be the Indiana Jones of film restoration,and the rest is (my professional) history.What Haver glosses over is that most preservation work - including the work done on A STAR IS BORN - is more based in cataloguing and cleaning than archival archaeology.It's still a great read,though.If you want some more in-depth discussions of the practice and policy of preservation,my two favorites areThe Politics of Preservationby Caroline Frick,andFilm Restoration: The Culture and Science of Audiovisual Heritage by Leo Enticknap.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Hollywood then was shattering,but still making
wonderful things and masterpieces,creating
the great mythology of pop culture,its gods and stories.
And how many times can we watch and hear Judy Garland ?
I mean,how long can we not to be watching or hearing?

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly S

Thanks so much for sharing.Somehow,I'd never known that alternative versions of this number existed.Of course,the one they used is magnificent.But I must say there's not a moment in the other two that isn't mesmerizing.Judy may have been tossing her thunderbolts a little more casually here but they were still thunderbolts.Just more proof that a Judy Garland out-take generally beats anyone else's finest hour.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterKen

I know she doesn't sing in it but will you b covering Judgement at Nuremberg?That was her last Oscar nomination.She has so few completely non singing roles.I recall The Clock but not much else.Is there one someone can recommend?

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Tom: with adult Judy,all we got areThe Clock,Judgment at NurembergandA Child Is Waiting.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I love this song so much,but I can't hear it anymore without thinking "Liza,that was for your mom"at the end.Which makes me pretty gay too.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterErko

The biggest robbery since Brink indeed!

Garland was hotly tipped to win and even she bought into the hype & was devastated when she din.

I guess at that time,she had expended most of her goodwill and burned a few bridges.It was well documented how super difficult she was in the shooting o ASIB and even Cukor,who was a well known woman director,never worked with her again.

Kelly's eventual win was not only for The Country Girl,but also for her (better) turns in the two 1954 Hitchcock's features.She was the IT girl of the moment and the most hardworking gal in town (5 movies in 1954!!!).Between her and Judy,I guess the voters really had a hard time deciding....It must have been a close race & honestly,Judy wld've won had she been in the good books of the studio and public.

IMO,Liza's win 18 yrs later (which she truly deserves) was in some part the Academy's way in making amends

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Anne Marie-Thanks for those book suggestions!!

July 27,2016 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

Fascinating post revealing the hard work that goes into creating just one single classic movie moment

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

Claran -- rumor has it that the vote was close between Kelly and Garland;apparently only a handful of votes separated the two.And I'm on the same page as you,Nathaniel.Garland's rendition ofThe Man that Got Awayis about my personal favorite movie musical number.Not only does this song showcase Garland's power as a singer,but what makes it special is her signature dramatic delivery which compels the storyline forward.It helps,too,that the song is a great bluesy classic,perfectly arranged.

July 27,2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraig

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