Before the intermission for A Star Is Born (1954), there’s a movie within a movie. Vicki Lester (Judy Garland) and Norman Maine (James Mason) go to the premiere of what is sure to be Vicki’s catapult into stardom. We get to see a 15-minute long musical number designed by Roger Edens and Leonard Gershe: “Born In A Trunk”. The number is told in stylistic flashbacks. Much of it is a retelling of how her character worked hard and overcame all obstacles to get to become the superstar that she was now.
James Mason disliked this sequence. “It slows the narrative. Yes, I know that it would make a lovely television special or something like that, but I thought it was out of place at that particular juncture.”
He does have a point. The movie is already 3 hours long unedited. He wasn’t the only one… Cukor though it was unnecessary, too. It wasn’t until production wrapped up and Cukor had left for Europe on vacation that Garland brought in her professional mentor (Edens) to film the scene.
It does make me wonder: what was it about this scene that Garland insisted that they needed to be there? Was a sequence displaying a career pinnacle hugely important to this film that was somewhat autobiographical of Garland’s own story? Or maybe Garland had a better sense of pacing? The uncut movie was a hit with preview audiences despite its length.
Or perhaps Garland loved the vivid visuals?
In contrast to the rest of the movie, this minimalist segment doesn’t feel as dated over half-a-century later. It’s like a White Stripes album cover brought to life. The color palette is a simple red, white, and black. (“The most powerful color combination of all time,” as Jack White would say.) The backgrounds are simplified and abstracted. It feels appropriate for this movie. “Born In A Trunk” displays the stunning and timeless design, coinciding with Vicki Lester’s pinnacle of her career… and right before, as VH-1 Behind the Music would have told you, things come crashing down.
Which brings us to today’s prompt: What’s your favorite movie within a movie?
As always, talk about some of the movies you’ve seen lately! It doesn’t have to be new (like A Star Is Born). It can be a classic (like A Star Is Born)!
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