By Scott Ross
What can happen when a great director, a great playwright, a great composer, an occasionally great lyricist, a great actor and the greatest female talent the musical movie has ever known collaborate. Ruthlessly cut and re-cut on its release, the current version, painstakingly pieced together by the late Ron Haver, is among the most toweringly effective musicals ever made, and (with Sunset Blvd. and Singin’ in the Rain) one of the greatest — because most subtle — satires on Hollywood. George Cukor contributed the exquisitely sensitive yet robust direction, Moss Hart wrote the eminently quotable script, and Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin composed the ravishing score. Jack Carson has his best-ever role as a smarmy, opportunistic yet comprehensible studio P.R. flack, James Mason exhibits a performance of such eloquent despair you almost have to look away, and Judy Garland gives to the role of a lifetime the performance of her life.
Text copyright 2013 by Scott Ross