by Ronald Haver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 28, 1988
Film historian Haver, a specialist in heavyweight coffeetable books (David O. Selznick's Gone with the Wind, David O. Selznick's Hollywood), comes up with a winning text and what likely will be a super sheaf of photographs (32 pages, 16 in color, all unseen by Kirkus). Haver is the head of the film department at the L.A. County Museum. Since age 16, he has been dizzy about director George Cukor's A Star Is Born (1954), or as he puts it, "". . .it was one of my primal moviegoing experiences, the kind of epiphanic film that burrowed itself into my subconscious and reverberated there."" Haver was the ideal bloodhound when lightning struck and sent him in search of the lost 30 minutes that Warner Brothers studio head Jack Warner had ordered hacked out of A Star Is Born's original running time of 181 minutes. All the outtakes had been ordered destroyed by Warner, who also destroyed the only copy of the original full-length version. After a fantastic hunt through every rusty film on the Warner lot, Haver uncovered bits and pieces of negative that hadn't been seen in 30 years, and came up with all but 11 minutes of the missing footage. First, though, he gives us the nuts and bolts of the musical remake of Selznick's 1937 classic (which has starred Fredric March and Janet Gaynor): the first gathering of talent under the aegis of Judy Garland's husband-producer Sid Luft; the marshalling of Cukor as director, Moss Hart as scriptwriter, and Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlen for the songs; the long wooing of Cary Grant for the role of the star-crossed alcoholic Norman Maine and the settling for James Mason (as inspired performance); the day-by-day shooting schedule; Judy's fight against pills and booze on the comeback trail; the picture's invasion by CinemaScope and going vastly overbudget to become the most expensive show in Warner Brothers' history; the terrific premiere and reviews; and then the business sharks asking for a shorter show, with Jack Warner caving in. The best insider view of the making of a picture since Lillian Ross' Picture about the making of John Huston's The Red Badge of Courage.
Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1988
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988
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