Song of the Day #4,435: ‘The Man That Got Away’ – Judy Garland

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#18. A Star is Born – 1954
(#7 on the AFI list)

This project has given me my first real exposure to Judy Garland, and I’ve come away as fascinated and impressed as fans the world over have been for years. Garland stars in three films on this list, spanning her whole turbulent film career.

A Star is Born, directed by George Cukor (who also helmed a film still to come), was considered Garland’s comeback film at the ripe old age of 32. It was also one of the last movies she ever made.

Four years earlier, Garland split with MGM after a tumultuous 15-year stint that included substance abuse, depression, many creative differences, and a half-hearted suicide attempt. This remake of the 1937 A Star is Born marked her return to the big screen.

And quite a return it was! This movie is a showcase for one of the great diva performances of all time. I don’t know if Garland is good in this movie, exactly, but she sure as shit throws everything she has into every scene.

I watched the 1983 restoration, considered the closest thing to Cukor’s director’s cut you can find. After the film premiered, Warner Brothers cut out more than 30 minutes, concerned that the excessive runtime would limit the number of showings per day. The restoration runs a hair under three hours and includes still photos paired with the original dialogue in a few scenes for which the original footage has been lost.

Both the theatrical release and the restoration include the 20+ minute ‘Born in a Trunk’ sequence, basically a film within the film, in which Garland’s character reenacts her path to stardom through a series of musical numbers. It’s an impressive feat of musical theater, but it stops the film dead in its tracks.

For better and worse, A Star is Born is full of flourishes like that, opportunities for Garland to fill the screen with her larger-than-life personality. Her scenery-chewing performance was considered a favorite for that year’s Best Actress Oscar, but she wound up losing to Grace Kelly for The Country Girl.

I haven’t mentioned James Mason, who plays the spiraling alcoholic actor Norman Maine with sad charm. Mason nabbed a Best Actor nomination, the second of six total for the film (Art Direction, Costume Design, Score and Song were the others). Interestingly, all four versions of A Star is Born received at least four Oscar nominations.

I’d give the edge to Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s 2018 remake over this one, but I have yet to see the 1937 or 1976 versions.

The night is bitter
The stars have lost their glitter
The winds grow colder
And suddenly you’re older
And all because
Of the man
That got away

No more his eager call
The writing’s on the wall
The dreams you dreamed have all
Gone astray

The man that won you
Has run off and undone you
That great beginning
Has seen its final inning
Don’t know what happened
It’s all a crazy game

No more that all time thrill
For you’ve been through the mill
And never a new love will
Be the same

Good riddance, good-bye
Every trick of his you’re on to
But fools will be fools
And where’s he gone to

The road gets rougher
It’s lonelier and tougher
With hope you burn up
Tomorrow he may turn up
There’s just no let up
The live long night and day

Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
A one-man woman
Looking for the man
That got away

The man that got away

2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,435: ‘The Man That Got Away’ – Judy Garland

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    You are Amy’s brother and you’ve never seen the Streisand/Kristofferson version? I suggest you remedy that ASAP!

  2. Peg says:

    I love Judy Garland! Always have. And it really made me appreciate Rene Zellweger’s perfect performance in her academy award winning role of Judy. Watching this performance now makes me believe this is the best remake of all. 👏
    Oh and you really need to see Barbra’s take as well 😊

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