Musical Monday: A Star is Born

Posted on May 11, 2009

Yes, it’s A Star is Born! The depressing musical inside look at tinsel town and how substance abuse can ruin both a marriage and a career! With Judy Garland! And SHE’s the sober one! Haha! Irony!

Our story starts here, at the relief benefit for the motion picture fund. It’s a Night of Stars!

And the gays are out in force, shrieking at their favorite divas and hoping for an autograph, or at the very least, a sequin or two to take home for their scrapbooks.

Backstage, movie star Norman Maine is drunk off his ass and carousing with some drag queens.

Judy is there too with her Main Gay. She takes one look at a drunk in a sequined hat partying with drag queens and she thinks “There’s the man I’m going to marry.” Yes, her character’s name is Esther, but they could put her in a nun’s habit (and they almost did here) and she’d still be Judy.

Judy, who can’t take a shit without falling over a gaggle of gay men, takes to the stage with two queens.

Norman stumbles out on stage and to save him from embarrassment, she shows him what she learned at her mother’s knee: When you find yourself shitfaced, sing.

Norman meets her backstage afterwards and slurs his thanks to her. Judy’s Main Gay is unimpressed.

Later that night, through a series of boring circumstances, Norman tracks her down doing the one thing she loves to do every night: close down a bar and hang out with the band.

If we can get serious for a mo, there are a lot of good reasons to see this film. It’s probably Judy’s best dramatic performance; for its time, it’s a remarkably cynical take on fame and a somewhat shockingly raw look at alcoholism; and there are some great numbers to watch, the best of which is this one, Judy’s famous rendition of “The Man That Got Away.” It pains us to say this, but we can’t find a clip of this scene anywhere on YouTube.

He takes her out driving in front of a rear projection screen and tells her he’s going to make her a star.

Judy wakes her Main Gay in the middle of the night to tell him she’s quitting the act and taking a chance with Norman. Main Gay calls her a fat bitch and vows never to do her hair again.

There’s a lot of yadda yadda yadda, but the upshot is Norman goes off to shoot a film, forgetting about Judy, and she works a string of demeaning jobs until Norman finds her again and takes her to the studio to sign a contract.

Next stop in the starmaking machine:

Plastic surgery.

Judy comes out of makeup looking like Joan Crawford with a bad head cold and Norman, horrified, whisks her away to his trailer.

Where he does her hair and makeup over. Judy falls hard.

Later, she visits the studio’s wardrobe department, populated by old bitches, sturdy lesbians, and wispy gay men. Somewhere along the way, the studio changes her name to Vicki Lester (but she’s still Judy).

If you’ve read any of our previous Judy-centric Musical Mondays, you’ll remember that we have always been appalled at how badly the studios dressed her back in the day. Periodically, we’ll do wardrobe checks on her. Like here, for instance. Not bad. Color’s good, silhouette’s good and she doesn’t look like she’s 20 years older than her age for once.

Later, Norman gets her cast in a big picture and they sneak into the back of a theater to watch it on preview night. What follows is a little film within a film.

And apparently, the fictional Judy had just as many problems with wardrobe as the real one. Seriously, why the hell did they dress her in men’s clothes so often?

Anyway, here’s the famous “Born in a Trunk” sequence from said film within a film. It’s a bit long, but you’ve got to stay till the end (or just click on part 2) to hear her bring down the house with “Swannee.” There’s also a great rendition of “Melancholy Baby” in there.


Later, Norman throws a party for her. Wardrobe check: horrific. Who trims short sleeves in fur?

Anyway, the inevitable happens. They get married. In a jail.

On their wedding night, because these two have absolutely no sexual attraction to each other, Judy dons a red satin floor length burka and sings to him.

Another party in their swanky modern Malibu house. Wardrobe check: Our eyeballs are bleeding. What crackhead came up with that little number? We realize Judy had a less than ideal figure and her weight was all over the place during the filming of this movie, but no one, at any weight, is going to look good in that monstrosity.

At the party, the head of the studio has some bad news for Norman that can best be summed up as follows:
Norman out; Vicki in.

With Norman home all day and Judy out all day working, they barely have time to not have sex with each other.

Y’know, you could make the argument that technically, this film isn’t a musical because all of the singing occurs in-story, meaning, when a character breaks into song, it’s not the spontaneous thing one usually associates with classic musicals. All the big numbers occur either on a stage or on a set. They cleverly got around it in this scene by having Judy show hubby what she’s been working on all day at the studio. It’s not a particularly great song, but it is something of a wicked sendup of musical conventions and a bit of Judy parodying herself.

Still, it’s weird how these two rarely so much as kiss. He watches and she performs. That’s the entirety of their marriage.

And uh-oh! What’s this?

“Sign here, Mr. Lester.” DundunDUN! DRAMA.

It’s Oscar Night and everyone’s been drinking in their seats all night!

And the winner is…JUDY! But where oh where is Norman?

Wardrobe check: not bad. Great color on her.

Here’s Norman! And he’s SHITFACED.

Check out the redhead on the left. She is just HORRIFIED to be so near a drunk person. “He’s going to bite me!” Bitch on the right is all “Pff. Whatever. Pussy can’t hold his liquor.”

Norman stumbles on stage and slaps Judy during her acceptance speech. Y’know, the Oscar producers should take a good look at this when they’re planning the next one. Let’s face it, we’d all happily sit through a 9-hour broadcast if there was the possibility of Gwyneth Paltrow getting slapped in front of billions.

Oh well, Judy. Your husband ruined your big moment, but at least your wardrobe is looking up. What will they put you in next?

GAAAAHHH!!!

WHY? WHY?

Which sums up this whole number. Judy is of indeterminate age and gender and sings and dances in front of a company wearing clothes of no particular place or period on a set that could represent almost anywhere in the world.

Judy tearfully tells the head of the studio that Norman has checked himself into rehab. He tries to appear sympathetic, but he’s having a hard time not showing his horror at what his makeup and wardrobe departments did to his star.

So, how did that whole rehab thing work out for Norman?

About as well as you’d expect.

Later, Norman gets arrested on a morals charge for cruising bus station restrooms for blowjobs.

Judy has never loved him more.

After she talks the judge out of sending him to jail, she tells the studio head guy (who has a name, but hell, who pays attention to that sort of thing when there’s so much DRAMA going on?) that she’s going to quit her career and devote all her time to making sure her husband stays on the wagon.

Thoughtfully, she has this entire conversation next to an open window where the hung over Norman can hear the whole thing. He knows what he must do next.

Walk off into the rear-projected sunset and drown himself.

Tyne Daly shows up for the funeral.

Later, Judy sits in her big mansion in the dark, crying and feeling sorry for herself. Her Main Gay shows up and gives her the Bitchslap to End All Bitchslaps. “Listen, Missy, you are going to slap on some makeup, strap your tits into a pushup bra, put on a shitty dress, and go out there and show them you’re a STAR!”

Which she does, uttering the immortal line, “This is…Mrs. Norman Maine.” Not exactly a moment dripping with feminism, but we gotta say, it’s a bit of a tearjerker.

[Screencaps: tomandlorenzo.com]

Tags: