A Star Is Re­born Judy Gar­land’s daugh­ter Lorna Luft on her mother’s role in A Star Is Born as Lady Gaga de­buts in the buzzy new re­boot

Two iconic women have al­ready played Es­ther in A Star Is Born. As a buzzy re­boot of the time­less clas­sic hits theatres to rave re­views for Lady Gaga, Judy Gar­land’s daugh­ter Lorna Luft re­counts her mother’s tragic turn in the role

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Nathalie Atkin­son

IT’S The Wizard of Oz that made Judy Gar­land a star, but her vis­ceral per­for­mance in A Star Is Born in 1954 is the en­dur­ing per­for­mance most as­so­ci­ated with her life. For years, Lorna Luft couldn’t watch it. “The film’s story and its un­der­ly­ing mes­sage about fame hit too close to home,” she writes in her new book A Star Is Born: Judy Gar­land and the Film That Got Away.

Luft, an ac­com­plished singer, ac­tress and pro­ducer, is a mem­ber of Hol­ly­wood and Broadway roy­alty: her sis­ter is Liza Min­nelli and their mother was Judy Gar­land. Yet even as her 1998 fam­ily memoir Me and MyShad­ows was made into an Emmy Award-win­ning minis­eries, Luft’s re­la­tion­ship to A Star Is Born was fraught.

“It took me a re­ally long time to be able to sit down and watch the film without feel­ing per­sonal loss,” Luft ad­mits now, “be­cause it was the only film my mother and my fa­ther made to­gether. And how an­gry and bit­ter my fa­ther was about it for the rest of his life, what they did to this movie.” She grew up with that fallout, even as she strikes a rue­ful tone to joke about the fa­mil­iar on-screen liv­ing room, “be­cause my fa­ther made a deal with Jack Warner to buy all the set fur­ni­ture, so I grew up on that fur­ni­ture!”

For Luft, there is no es­cap­ing the movie or the ef­fect it had on ev­ery­one in­volved. On the day be­fore we spoke, for ex­am­ple, Luft says she woke up and turned on the tele­vi­sion. “And there was Love Finds Andy Hardy, and the day ended with A Star Is Born,” she re­calls. It hap­pened to be Judy Gar­land Day in Turner Clas­sic Movies an­nual Sum­mer Un­der the Stars theme. For many, A Star Is Born’s story of un­equiv­o­cal suc­cess or fail­ure makes it the ul­ti­mate in celebrity voyeurism. Af­ter a life­time of liv­ing with it, Luft thinks it’s more uni­ver­sal: “It’s about hu­man na­ture.” The book treats it as a lens to un­der­stand­ing ca­reer and per­sonal suc­cess through the wider lens of Hol­ly­wood. With film his­to­rian and ar­chiv­ist Jef­frey Vance as her co-au­thor, chap­ters chron­i­cle how and why each of­fi­cial A Star Is Born ver­sion got made – 1937, 1954, 1976 – and as a Tin­sel­town in­sider (child­hood neigh­bours in­cluded Humphrey Bog­art and Lau­ren Ba­call), it’s pep­pered with anec­dotes and puts the var­i­ous in­car­na­tions into cul­tural con­text.

This lat­est ver­sion with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga is the fourth adap­ta­tion – or fifth, if you count WhatPriceHol­ly­wood? first di­rected by Ge­orge Cukor in 1932, years be­fore he stepped be­hind the cam­era again for what was the same ba­sic cau­tion­ary tale A Star Is Born in 1954. “I was thrilled that they were do­ing it,” Luft says of Cooper’s di­rec­to­rial de­but (out Oct. 4). His take on the doomed love story is set di­rectly in the mu­sic in­dus­try just as was Bar­bra Streisand’s 1976 it­er­a­tion.

Nat­u­rally, the cen­tre­piece of Luft’s book is the 1954 mu­si­cal ver­sion that her mother and im­pre­sario fa­ther Sid­ney Luft pro­duced. It’s that ver­sion that not only first in­tro­duced songs to show­case Gar­land’s daz­zling vo­cal power but also had higher stakes for its star who was also the pro­ducer re­spon­si­ble for its suc­cess. Like Streisand and now Cooper, Gar­land had a lot rid­ing on its suc­cess. “The pic­ture had to be the great­est … it couldn’t be merely very good,” Gar­land said in an in­ter­view at the time. “I had too much at stake … I had to prove things.”

And prove them she did – at least in the orig­i­nal crit­i­cally ac­claimed ver­sion that ran in cin­e­mas for only two weeks. Dis­trib­u­tors com­plained about its 181-minute length, and 27 min­utes were cut, in­clud­ing two key mu­si­cal num­bers and sev­eral early scenes that ar­guably build es­sen­tial emo­tional depth. Says Luft, “Not only was it butchered by the stu­dio, but they sent out copies to pro­jec­tion­ists with notes about where to cut the movie up. Can you imag­ine a pro­jec­tion­ist to­day cut­ting up a Spiel­berg film?”

The edited re­lease was a fi­nan­cial dis­ap­point­ment and ef­fec­tively ended Gar­land’s ca­reer as a movie star, cast aside by the stu­dio sys­tem that as a child star had cre­ated her. Luft is can­did about how the fail­ure con­trib­uted to the down­fall of her par­ents’ re­la­tion­ship and to her mother’s fragility (and even­tual death in 1969 at the age of just 47).

Luft’s ex­pe­ri­ence of A Star Is Born first changed in 1983, when film preser­va­tion­ist Ron­ald Haver metic­u­lously tracked down lost footage and re­con­structed it. Although seven min­utes are still miss­ing, the restora­tion was a per­sonal mile­stone, a tri­umph that re­claimed her mother’s tour de force.

Though even now, watch­ing A Star Is Born is bit­ter­sweet: when scenes change to stills cov­er­ing for the miss­ing footage that al­tered the movie’s fate, Luft says she gets a sour feel­ing in the pit of her stom­ach. They rep­re­sent what might have been. A gala pre­sen­ta­tion of the re­stored ver­sion opened the in­au­gu­ral Turner Clas­sic Movies Film Fes­ti­val in 2010, and the en­thu­si­as­tic re­ac­tion of Luft’s chil­dren, Jesse and Vanessa, fi­nally en­cour­aged her to con­sider shar­ing pho­tos and open­ing up fam­ily

mem­o­ries about the film that she had kept pri­vate for decades.

Fans of the show­biz dy­nasty will rel­ish the pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished fam­ily snapshots, the wry sto­ries about win­ing and din­ing Cary Grant to play the male lead Nor­man Maine (he did not; James Ma­son did) and the time A Star Is Born’s past and fu­ture Es­thers sang to­gether in 1963, when a young Streisand was a guest on Gar­land’s short-lived CBS tele­vi­sion show. And irony aside, Luft her­self is fond of the strik­ing pho­to­graph of a Movi­ola editor work­ing on footage of the dra­matic beach scene that was later so in­fa­mously cut.

Cukor had been the orig­i­nal di­rec­tor of The Wizard of Oz 15 years prior and in pre-pro­duc­tion had been the one to protest the blond wig and heavy makeup planned for Dorothy Gale, a de­ci­sion that al- lowed Gar­land’s true self to shine. So it was with a spe­cial mean­ing that he and the star reprised that mo­ment for A Star Is Born’s in­deli­ble screen test se­quence, the one where Nor­man Maine laughs at the ef­forts of the stu­dio makeup de­part­ment to turn Es­ther (Gar­land) into a con­ven­tional blond glam­our girl and re­moves the gar­ish wig and makeup to re­veal her in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic beauty.

Thanks to life sadly im­i­tat­ing art in Gar­land’s own life, A Star Is Born’s story of tal­ent and self­de­struc­tion has now en­tered the celebrity canon. And for an in­dus­try ob­sessed with self-mythol­ogy, it’s proven ir­re­sistible. As surely as Gaga could not help her­self from strik­ing Gar­land’s sig­na­ture pose at the TIFF pre­miere, Cooper could not re­sist ap­pro­pri­at­ing the mythic make­un­der: as the story goes, dur­ing her au­di­tion, he wiped away the makeup and ar­ti­fice of the Lady Gaga per­sona to re­veal the au­then­tic Ste­fani Ger­man­otta. Col­laps­ing the dis­tinc­tion be­tween per­former, char­ac­ter and per­for­mance, it’s a scene straight out of the Hol­ly­wood myth play­book. Fact and fa­ble in­ter­twine, all for our en­ter­tain­ment.

The three faces of Es­ther: Gar­land’s beach scene with James Ma­son (1954), a se­quence cut af­ter the first preview; Streisand with Kris Kristof­fer­son (1976); Lady Gaga with Bradley Cooper (2018)

Gar­land’s sig­na­ture pose; (in­set) Lady Gaga’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion at the TIFF af­ter-party; Streisand guests on The Judy Gar­land Show (1963).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.