Friday, April 22, 2016

"A Star Is Born"

In George Cukor's "A Star is Born" (Warner Bros, 1954) the Chinese is the location for some of the opening premiere shots.  As the searchlights strike up we're told it's a big night in Hollywood. This image is reversed -- we're looking into the reflector of one of the searchlights -- that's the positive carbon in its feed mechanism on the right. Note the P.E. Red Car in the image.  At the upper edge just right of center we see the bottom several letters (reversed) of one of the Chinese Theatre's verticals.

Kurt Wahlner, historian of all things related to the Chinese Theatre, notes that some of the footage in this scene was shot the night "The Robe" opened in 1953. He says: "They are clever to keep details fuzzy, but there is a shot where the camera pans across the lower section of the western center poster case, and you can see Richard Burton’s face in the poster case."

A fuzzy shot looking east on Hollywood Blvd. where we can make out the signage for the Vogue Theatre and, on the lower right, the El Capitan -- here still with its 40s vintage Paramount marquee.

Head to the Grauman's Chinese pages on the Los Angeles Theatres site for more about the theatre. And while you're exploring, visit Kurt's website for a list of films to play the theatre indexed by year, a history of projection technology and much more.

 But it turns out we're not going to the Chinese -- our event is at the Shrine Auditorium. Director George Cukor is pretending the Shrine is on Hollywood Blvd. so he can get a busy street scene. That's something you don't get at the Shrine.

A shot across the lower portion of the Shrine Auditorium's facade with the crowds and cars supposed to match the action we've seen in the Hollywood Blvd. shots.  The event is a "Night of Stars" benefit for the Motion Picture Relief Fund.

Then we get another Hollywood Blvd. shot. It's a quick fuzzy pan across cars and the crowd. But as, Kurk Wahlner has noted, you get a quick look of the art for "The Robe" in a display case at the Chinese. That's Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature in the poster.  That trio is certainly not going to be at the event in our film.  The footage comes from the premiere of "The Robe," the first film in Cinemascope, on September 24, 1953.

Another Hollywood Blvd. shot before we go inside the Shrine to our event. Here we're looking west toward the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with signage showing for their Cinegrill.

Our searchlights move from Hollywood Blvd. to the entrance of the Shrine Auditorium. This area, now enclosed, used to be open to the street.

Another shot across the lower portion of the Shrine Auditorium.  Looks just like Hollywood Blvd., doesn't it?  The Shrine Auditorium is south of downtown, near USC.

 Finally we get a look inside the Shrine.

A look up to the house left box. Studio head Oliver Niles (Charles Bickford) is up there.

A pan up to the Shrine's tent-like ceiling before the show starts.

The vista down onto the stage from the house left box. Showgirls, cowboys, Indians and, yes, horses. Up next is supposed to be star Norman Maine but he's drunk.

Backstage with Norman Maine (James Mason) and studio publicist/fixer Matt Libby (Jack Carson).  In the background are seen several stagehands at the lockrail.

A shot from the balcony as curtains open to reveal the band headed by Danny McGuire (Tommy Noonan). They'll slide forward on a bandcar. The singer with the band is Esther Blodgett (Judy Garland).

A drunk Norman Maine (Mason) has wandered onstage while Esther (Judy) is singing. Here we get a  shot across the stage as she tries to drag him off.  A lot happens in the next 2 and 3/4 hours. She becomes a star, he walks into the ocean to commit suicide, etc. We come back to the Shrine for another Actors Relief Fund benefit at the end of the show.

Back at the Shrine at the end of the movie -- a view across the pit.

Another shot up to the balcony.

End of the show. A view from the top of the balcony as the
 curtains open to reveal Judy Garland, "Mrs. Norman Maine."

The pages about the Shrine Auditorium on the Los Angeles Theatres site have a history of the building and many photos inside and out. The auditorium is a 1926 design of G. Albert Lansburgh. John C. Austin did the rest of the building.

"A Star Is Born" opened at the Pantages September 29, 1954.  You'll find several views of the premiere (along with about a hundred other photos) on the Pantages Theatre street view timeline page on the Los Angeles Theatres site.

On IMDb: "A Star is Born"

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