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any more than 3-D is likely improve something like Cat Women of the Moon (1954).

That's true. Nothing can improve Cat Women of the Moon, it's pure entertainment.

I'm one of the few who is a big fan of the original much more than this remake. The remake certainly looks better and has a higher level of cinematic richness to it but it's Fredric March that does for me in the original. His dry wit is dead on throughout the film and always keeps me coming back. He has a common quality as well that elicits my sympathy. Mason, as much as I like him as an actor, is too aloof in character to get any sympathy as Norman. Mason is too smug for this role. March plays him as hapless and so you feel for him when it all falls apart.

The other problem I have with the remake is that Judy Garland, at her age and with her physical appearance, would not have become a star. She would have dubbed songs for stars who couldn't sing. Judy Garland was a star of course, but she started out twenty years earlier. Had the Judy Garland of 1940 been in this movie it would have been believable to me that she could be discovered and be a star but not by 1954.

Also, the first one gives equal time to her rise and his fall whereas this one goes about 65/35 her rise/his fall. It's so much goddamn Judy that I get bored. It's one damn number after another and you get the feeling the story is just there to provide a vehicle for Judy Garland numbers.

Anyway, this remake is so highly regarded I usually get my head bitten off whenver I bring up these gripes but I still do it, and always will. I can't help it. For all the great qualities of this remake, most of which you nailed in this piece, the movie just annoys me in comparison to the original.


Hey Greg thanks for the thoughtful feedback (your Catwomen line cracks me up). Sharing our ideas is what blogging is about. And don't worry, no one's going to bite your head off around here. The zombie blogs usually take care of that sort of thing...

I agree, the original picture has a lot of things going for it not the least of which is William Wellman, a director I really like, whose style is a focused, streamlined storytelling usually aimed right at the gut. In contrast, Cukor's style feels a bit more based on the stage--though in CinemaScope what a stage it is! The original also has that old Hollywood human-level quality about it while the remake is a bit more of a caricatural vision of Hollywood as a place that creates and destroys careers and relationships. The differences probably begin and are fueled by the fact that these two movies are different genres, one a drama and the other a musical. That is to say, there really had to be a lot of musical numbers for Garland in the remake 'cause, well, it's a musical after all.

And as you say, Garland might have been a bit too old for the ingenue role of the original, but Garland's age, storied career, and personal problems certainly add something to the tragic atmosphere she brings to the character.

Fredric March versus James Mason. Hmm...well, I think Mason plays Maine as a man already at the end of his rope who alienates himself from everyone, maybe even us. March plays the role more as someone who believes he still has it but is shut-out because others won't tolerate his alcoholism (I wonder if the character is based on John Gilbert). I prefer March's take on the role, but I also like Mason's acting chops. The scene of him writhing in silent agony before he decides to make that long walk to the ocean stings just as much as March's famous exit line in the original.

You make a good point about the difference between the two stories, particularly when you describe the uneven ratio in the careers/relationships see-saw in the later film. I happen to like both pictures but for different reasons. My personal interest in the musical remake orbits around the instances of technology, filmmaking, and studio business and how the screenplay and Cukor weave them into the storytelling. I pointed out a few instances above but another example occurs when Norman's marriage proposal to Esther is recorded in the studio by the sound engineer and then is made in public over the monitors before she answers him--in effect he can't even make a successful marriage proposal without a little help from filmmaking technology.

As you feel strongly about these movies I have a question: how does Frank Pierson's remake of the remake from the 1970s compare with these two in your opinion?


I agree with you actually on most of what you discern as the differences between the two and the reasons for them but I prefer the original's streamlined quality.

As for the seventies remake, I only saw it once years ago and couldn't stand it. It just didn't work at all, and again, Streisand seemed way too far into her career to be believable. I think Gaynor gets away with it because she looks like such a little girl.

If what I hear about a Beyonce remake is true then I have to say, Beyonce I could believe as just being discovered and becoming a star. But the movie I fear will blow chunks.


Greg - I'm glad we didn't have to argue over the 1970s remake of the remake 'cause I didn't care for it one whit. The characters couldn't be more unlikable. I read awhile back about Will Smith optioning the property and planning a remake of the remake of the remake--the twist this time is that he would play the rising star role and Beyonce, or someone else, the falling star role. I don't know if it will happen but they would certainly be among the best looking actors to play either character. We'll have to wait and see...

Jacqueline T Lynch

Thom, this was a great post. I love your analysis on the grudge match between TV and the movies of that era. You raise many interesting issues, and I really like your frame by frame analysis of the awards scene. I haven't seen this film in years, but your post brings it all back with new insight. The mention of our focus being on the big screen Judy as opposed to the real Judy standing on stage in that scene reminds me of that old cartoon I saw somewhere, can't remember where, of a crowd of people looking at images of a burning building on the TV sets through an appliance store window. The real building is burning near them, but they are riveted to the TV images.

One aspect of TV's emergence and trumping of the movies (along with all the other points you made), is that 1950s live (and sometimes taped) TV brought exciting shows and exciting new opportunities to actors. The "Best of Broadway" brought stage adaptations to live TV with big name stars. "Climax", "Playhouse 90", "General Electric Theater", are only a few of the remarkable shows that blasted the old downtown movie house out of our lives. They were well-written. TV had not yet succumbed to predictable format series, and it was free, and you got Betty Furness in show-stopping commercials displaying all the neat stuff you could buy. The quality of the transmission might have been inferior to the CinemaScope picture, but what TV was giving in those days was content, if not style.

This is not to reiterate that, like many of the critics you've read, TV was absolutely what crushed Hollywood. I agree with you that that is not entirely true. I mean only that the kind of TV that was shown then, for its very newness, vigor, and inventiveness, was irresistable.


Thanks Jacqueline! Tex Avery seems like good candidate for that cartoon you recall. Please let me know if you track it down. The big screen Judy versus her on stage reminded me of similar set-ups at rock concerts where you find yourself drawn to experience a close-up of the singer instead of the actual performance right in front of you.

I like your idea of the irresistibility of the new. A short story could be finessed out of that, I think. Thanks too for adding to the post with a recognition of some of the quality entertainment broadcast on the rising medium. Both factors could be included in an overall analysis of TV's effect on declining attendance. The decline began much earlier, right after the post-war peak of 1946, though so it seems TV didn't blast the old downtown theater out of our lives as much as it added substantial fuel to an already burning, multi-source blaze.

Now you've got me in the mood to hunt down some early television shows...

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