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12 Inside Facts About the 1954 Judy Garland Film ‘A Star is Born’

To celebrate the film turning 70, we have rounded up the twelve craziest facts about it

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A lively musical starring Judy Garland? Always count us in! A Star is Born 1954 might have been a remake of the 1937 film of the same name, but it certainly shined brighter than the original. And to celebrate its 70th anniversary, we’ve looked far and wide for 12 of the most intriguing behind-the-scenes facts about its making. From the explanation for the undeniable chemistry between Judy Garland and James Mason to the Warner Brothers record it broke and the movie’s original length — you have to read it to believe it!

A Star is Born 1954 is a musical that follows fading actor Norman Maine (James Mason), who, despite his severe alcoholism, does his best to help young singer and actress Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland) on her rise to fame.

The film, directed by George Cukor, was nominated for six Oscars in the categories of Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Art Direction — Color, Best Costume Design — Color, Best Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Song. Additionally, both Mason and Garland brought up Golden Globe Awards for their acting.

Wanting to give A Star is Born 1954 a watch? It’s available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

MUST READ: The Short, Sweet and Oftentimes Tragic Life of Judy Garland

1. James Mason wasn’t the original choice for Norman Maine

Judy Garland and James Mason in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland and James Mason in A Star is Born 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

While filming Julius Caesar (1953), director George Cukor asked Marlon Brando if he would be willing to play Norman Maine. He reportedly looked at him and said, “Why would you come to me? I’m in the prime of my life… If you’re looking around for some actor to play an alcoholic has-been, he’s sitting right over there.”

Brando was pointing to his co-star James Mason, who got the part.

Cary Grant was also considered, but the actor was actually more interested in traveling with his wife.

2. Judy Garland’s breakdown was real

Judy Garland and George Cukor behind the scenes (1954)
Judy Garland and George Cukor behind the scenes (1954) moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

Cukor was known for having a knack for pushing his cast to the brink of an emotional breakdown and then capturing it on camera. For the scene where Ester (Garland) is crying in her dressing room, Cukor supposedly pushed Garland so hard that she actually threw up during the first take. Then, when she came back to set, Cukor had her film the sequence so many times, that her breakdown was basically real.

After the scene was finally over, though, Cukor cracked a joked to try and ease the tension. It probably didn’t work.

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3. Judy Garland made filming super complicated

Judy Garland in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

It was no secret that Garland struggled with her mental health through much of her life, and including on A Star is Born 1954. This eventually lead to Garland calling in sick — the remedy apparently being for her to party and go to the races — a total of nine days. She would also leave set early, simply because she didn’t want to be there, and frequently complain about her costumes. At one point they had fallen 41 days behind schedule due to all these delays.

To make matters even worse, Garland left set for two weeks at the end of March to get herself properly “medicated.”

4. This was a historic film for director George Cukor

Judy Garland and George Cukor behind the scenes (1954)
Judy Garland and George Cukor behind the scenes (1954) moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

A Star is Born 1954 was a groundbreaking film for Oscar winning director George Cukor. Not only was it his 37th film, but it was also his first-ever musical and his first Technicolor effort.

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5. Judy Garland and James Mason became very close friends while filming A Star is Born 1954

Judy Garland and James Mason in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland and James Mason in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

Turns out the on screen chemistry between Garland and Mason was real! While working on the film, the two became very close friends and remained so until Garland’s death in 1969. In fact, Mason was asked by Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, to give a eulogy at her funeral.

6. This film served as Judy Garland’s comeback

Judy Garland in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

A Star is Born 1954 was the first film Garland worked on after a four year break from acting. The last project she had starred in before it was Summer Stock (1950).

MUST READ: ‘Rebel Without a Cause’: 10 Behind the Scenes Facts About the James Dean and Natalie Wood Movie

7. A Star is Born 1954 made history many times over

Judy Garland and James Mason in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland and James Mason in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

The New York City premiere of A Star is Born was so big that it had to be held at two different theaters: the Victoria and the Capitol. It was also the first ever Hollywood film to have its premiere televised.

8. Judy Garland was pregnant during filming

Judy Garland in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

Despite all of the other hardship’s Garland faced while filming A Star is Born, it ended well because the actress found out she was pregnant with son Joey Luft at the end of it!

Joey was also the reason Garland did not attend the 1955 Academy Award — despite being nominated for Best Actress, she had just given birth and was still in the hospital at the time.

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9. James Mason thought A Star is Born 1954 wasn’t the best one

Judy Garland and James Mason in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland and James Mason in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

Despite having a starring role in the film, James Mason didn’t think their version was the best adaption of the story.

Ours was a little thrown out of kilter, because it became centered on the activities of a musical performer, who happened to be the less important of the two characters,” the actor once said. “However, ours survives, and ours has become a classic because Judy was such an extraordinary performer. It’s a wonderful film.”

10. A Star is Born 1954 had a lot of fake Oscars made

Judy Garland in 'A Star is Born' 1954
Judy Garland in ‘A Star is Born’ 1954moviestillsdb.com/Warner Brothers

For the Academy Award segment, the props department of A Star is Born made 50 fake Oscars for the cast to use. They were destroyed immediately after production wrapped so that people wouldn’t get them mixed up with the real thing.

11. It was the incredibly shrinking film

The first test screening of A Star is Born 1954 was of a 196-minute cut, but Cukor and his editor, Folmar Blangsted, cut it down to 182 minutes for the New York premiere. Despite positive reviews, Warner Brothers was concerned the length would means less screenings a day, so they had it cut down to 154 minutes, resulting in two musical numbers and important dramatic material being cut. Over the years, restored editions would be issued.

12. A Star is Born 1954 was a box office failure

Judy Garland at the premiere
Judy Garland at the 1954 premiere of A Star is Born (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In the end, A Star is Born took nine months to film at a cost of $5 million and a box office gross of just over $6 million. As such, not only was it Warner Brothers’ most expensive production up until that time, but it lost a lot of money.

MUST READ: ‘Funny Face’: 16 Wild Facts About the 1957 Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire Musical


For all things 1950’s click here.

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