Last night I watched one of my favorite movies, A Star is Born, starring Judy Garland and James Mason. I loved this movie as a kid and I have fond memories of seeing the restored version in 1983. I attended a major re-premiere of the film at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Theater in Beverly Hills. I dont know how I was able to wrangle a ticket, but I am sure glad I did! I rented a tux, parked my rental car down the street, and walked to the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. I was very excited as I walked past the photographers on the red carpet and into the lobby. Inside there were many stars congregating, drinking champagne, and eating hors ‘deurves. I remember seeing James Mason, Gregory Peck, Maureen Stapleton, Rock Hudson, Vincente Minnelli, Liza Minnelli, and Lorna Luft. I talked to Liza about how much I enjoyed her work, and to Lorna Luft about Extremities, the play she was starring in with Farah Fawcett Off-Broadway. At one point I had to visit the men’s room… and ended up talking to Rock Hudson at the urinal! I was just his type back then-young and blonde-thank goodness nothing happened or I might not be writing this today! I remember being appalled at the way the stars drank and ate like pigs! Maureen Stapleton was exceptionally piggish…stuffing chocolates in her face, and at one point, ripping fruit off a centerpiece until it fell apart and crashed to the floor! I met a black women who told me she was the girl who danced with Judy Garland in the Lose That Long Face number. The song was cut from the film and was now restored after 30 years. Talk about paying your dues! Eventually, it was time to be seated in the theater. I was ushered down to a great seat next to Vincente Minnelli! I didn’t talk to him because he seemed very frail, and was kind of propped up in his seat. Liza spoke about how her mother felt when they cut out Lose That Long Face…”She was very upset and I tried to calm her down. She came up to my room. I didnt know what to do – you know that helpless feeling – because I didn’t understand what it meant. So I put my arms around her, and I said, ‘What is it? Can I help?’ And she said, ‘they just dont care.'” Liza looked out over us in the audience and said, “Obviously they do care – very much.” The money that was raised from showings of the restored version of A Star is Born was going toward further film restorations. Many films made before 1950 have been lost forever due to their deteriorating film stock. Earlier in the evening, Fay Kanin, the president of the academy, said, “The 80s is the decade of preservation.”
God bless Ron Haver, the man who tracked down 20 minutes of the missing 27 minutes of the film. In 1982 he spent over 8 months, searching more than 1600 film cans, looking for the footage at the Warner studio lot.
I remember Lorna spoke of trying to track down missing footage herself, and Joey Luft saying he was, “still in his mother’s stomach,” while the film was being made.
Words cannot express my feelings and the electric energy of the room, when the film actually began. I was mesmerized. The print was gorgeous! The soundtrack glorious! Thunderous applause occurred after every musical number. I never wanted it to end!
I really felt that I was a part of an important Hollywood event… sitting in that seat…with Vincente Minnelli leaning up against me!