|Mason accidentally smacks Garland at the Oscars|
Re-tailored for the talents of Judy Garland, this version of the venerable story does away with the early scenes of small-town home life and the old grandma in the 1934 original. This version is practically a musical, with production numbers for the star inserted at regular intervals. Some of the dialogue from the first film is used in this one as well. This version also has a lengthy scene [cut after the original release] which shows star Norman Maine (James Mason) searching all over Hollywood for Esther (Garland) after their first encounter; stills are mostly all that survive of this sequence. The "Born in a Trunk" number, which is very well done, has been reincorporated as well. Mason, Garland, Charles Bickford as a studio head and Jack Carson as the publicity man are all quite good, although it could be argued that in her more emotional scenes Garland displays technical virtuosity but is a touch over-rehearsed and mechanical, which may have cost her an Oscar. One scene that should have been left on the cutting room floor has Mason acting as a one-man cheering squad as Garland performs "Someone, Somewhere." On the other hand, Garland sings the pants off the excellent number "The Man That Got Away." Basically this is entertaining despite its length, handsomely produced, and well-edited. Others in the cast include Chick Chandler, Irving Bacon, Percy Helton, Olin Howland, and Grady Sutton.
Verdict: Garland's movie for better or worse. ***.