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A Star Is Born (1954)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Star Is Born is an award-winning musical with a serious story about alcoholism at its core. While the film depicts the wondrous rise to stardom of a talented, earnest young woman, it also shows the decline and ultimate tragedy of her self-destructive husband and mentor. It's about alcoholism and the deadly results of one man's addiction. Instances of drunkenness are plentiful and, given the time period in which the characters live, there is frequent smoking.
What's the story?
In A STAR IS BORN, a talented young band singer (Judy Garland) is discovered by a major movie star (James Mason) who is also an alcoholic. Though they fall love and share idyllic moments together, he cannot maintain control over his alcoholism and its related bad behavior. Her singing and acting career soars as he falters and tragically self-destructs. This well-known and much-loved film is a remake of the Janet Gaynor-Frederic March 1937 drama of the same name, which was remade again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This 1954 version nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Actor and Best Actress), which marked Judy Garland's triumphant return to the screen after her own difficulties with substance abuse and fragility, is the iconic version of the familiar story.
Is it any good?
Though acting styles and depictions of alcoholism have greatly changed since this melodrama was made, this musical drama set in the early 1950s remains a vibrant and moving film. A Star Is Born captures the true essence of Judy Garland's showmanship, vulnerability, and musical gifts. Some original songs, including Judy's show-stopping delivery of "The Man That Got Away," are introduced alongside a wonderful selection of American Songbook standards.
It's long, just minutes short of three hours, but for a one-stop intro to the magic that was Judy Garland as an adult icon and for dazzling musical production numbers, this is the movie to see.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences in treatment for alcoholism in 1954 and today. Do you think Alcoholics Anonymous, Al Anon, or other programs would have helped Norman and Esther? Are you aware of the resources in your community for substance abusers and/or their families?
Think about how the art of acting has changed over the years since A Star Is Born was made. What are some of the most obvious differences between Academy Award-nominated performances then and now?
What motivated Norman Maine's final decision? How might he have resolved his dilemma in a different way?
For kids who love musicals
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