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Regarding the restoration of 'A Star is Born' (1954)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Rick Z., Jan 12, 2007.

  1. Rick Z.

    Rick Z. Well-Known Member

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    I was reading an article yesterday which chronicles the restoration of A Star is Born , which was conducted by Ronald Haver in 1983. I found it quite interesting and I'd like to hear some opinions from those in the know. I also would like to have one thing clear... much of the deleted scenes were found in the stock footage dept, right? but according to the article, these were alternate takes of the misssing scenes and the soundtrack that was being used was from the original uncut 3 hour version (derived from the original scenes). I saw this film so long ago and I don't remember the final result of this restoration (other than the stills for the missing closeups, etc) but how did they manage to sync the alternate takes to the soundtrack of the original uncut version? or was it that the scenes that were found in the stock footage dept were the originals and not alternate takes? can someone please explain me this?
     
  2. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Well-Known Member

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    You really need to buy Haver's book on the restoration for a thorough account, but as I remember from reading it the stock footage had alternate takes of shots of cars and settings and such. That accounts for why there are many actual shots in between the photos of the scene recreations. In Jack Warner's private vault, they found alternate takes of most of the musical numbers, and it was from this footage they initially recreated "Lose That Long Face". The sync was noticeably off, but shortly after a few screenings a collector was found who had the original negative! The book goes into more detail (apparently this guy had tons of illegal material that was seized - he had been fingered by a friend some time before as having the entire original sequence), but this negative was then used to properly restore the "Lose That Long Face" sequence.

    The whole scene with Vicki and Norman's proposal and that song was taken from black and white seperations that were made from the uncut version of the film - and survived mislabeled! Unfortunately, seperations were not made of the entire film before it was edited, but at least that one reel was processed beforehand.

    I believe Haver's book is out-of-print, but it is worth picking up for sure.
     
  3. ScottR

    ScottR Well-Known Member

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    I managed to score an autographed copy of this book a few years ago. It's a wonderful read.
     
  4. SilverWook

    SilverWook Well-Known Member

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    I'd bet that the negative and other "illegal material" were originally rescued from a garbage dumpster.[​IMG]
     
  5. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
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    It is a wonderful book, well worth the time to track down. In fact, I wouldn't mind reading it again soon as I've forgotten some of the details and would enjoy discovering them again.

    I rewatched the DVD a few weeks ago, and the film holds up beautifully. It's quite a good transfer, too.
     
  6. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Well-Known Member

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    I wonder if Warner Bros. has found anything else in the intervening years. Sadly, Mr. Haver is deceased, and it would be a great tribute to him if more footage were found that can replace the "stills with soundtrack" scenes he used for the reconstruction. If the rumors of a new Ultra-Resolution DVD are true, maybe there will be a few surprises ahead....
     
  7. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Well-Known Member

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    While the full audio exists for the entire cut, because of the limited nature of the existing stills, some of the still & audio recreated sequences were trimmed down to make the film play better. Understandable, really, as having a film stop for two minutes while only 2 or 3 images play across the screen would be really kill the pacing. The still & audio recreations move quick enough that you're in and out and back to the film sequences fairly quickly.

    I would love a future disc to have the full audio of these sequences included in their entirety, purely as a bonus feature.
     
  8. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Well-Known Member

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    For some reason, the use of stills in this restoration was a little jarring; contrast it to similar work in the original "Lost Horizon" when for some reason, it seemed okay (to me at least). I don't know why; that's just the way it is...???
     
  9. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Well-Known Member

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    The sequences cut from the restoration ARE on side B of the DVD release - in audio form only, obviously.
     
  10. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Well-Known Member

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    They need to do an Ultra-Resolution transfer of the 1937 A STAR IS BORN - not the 1954 remake. It wasn't show three-strip, and the negative elements appear to be just fine. The only film I know of where UR was used on a non-Technicolor film was THE SEARCHERS, and that was only because of the unusable faded camera negative. Remember, seperation masters are a generation down, and depending on whether they were made optically or by contact printing - and also WHEN they were made, vary in quality. That is why they usually use them as a last resort when restoring a film not originally shot 3-strip.
     
  11. Richard M S

    Richard M S Well-Known Member

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    I was at the Radio City Music Hall premiere of the restored version of the film, it was a very memorable experience. James Mason attended as did both of Garland's daughters, and all 3 as well as Ron Haver spoke prior to the film. James Mason of course was particularly happy it was restored, and during his speech I specifically recall him praising the 3 overlooked supporting cast members, Tommy Noonan, Charles Bickford and Jack Carson.

    After the spoke, right before the film was shown on Radio City's screen, the footage of the original premiere was screened (it is on the DVD) anyway, did that cause the audience to just explode every time each (unexpected) star appeared. The entire theater absolutely erupted when Liberace appeared on screen, as well as Lucy and Desi.

    Oh was that an enthusiastic audience - they applauded every scene change. The Lose That Long Face number and then Garland's reprise got particularly huge (deserving) ovations.

    Anyway, the bits and pieces of he missing scenes were specifically cut by Warners and saved as stock footage to be used in other films, which explains why in the scene with the approaching boat carrying James Mason comes close enough to see him, the scene suddenly reverts back to the stills. Haver was the only one to realize this via his research.

    Except for the musical numbers, almost none of the "regular" scenes were found. The scene at the diner with Garland as a waitress was an alternate take, and that was why the sound was out of synch with the film.

    I do wish they would find the missing pieces, though as others have pointed out it has held up quite well and it is still a great film, even with the stills. By the way, the stills with the landlady when Norman Maine comes looking for Esther Blodget could not be found, so Haver re-created them. If I remember correctly, that may have been Haver's own landlady in the scene's still.

    Look on EBAY for Haver's book, it indeed is excellent.
     
  12. CameronMcC

    CameronMcC Well-Known Member

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  13. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Well-Known Member

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  14. Darren Gross

    Darren Gross Well-Known Member

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    I somehow misssed that there was a second menu page of extras on the B side. Chalk it up to clunkier menuing or an inadequate listing of extras on the back of the disc...Thanks for pointing it out though, as I'm surprised I missed it. It's great that two of those audio-only sequences are included, though I would like to hear the others- the instrumental-music transitional stuff trimmed from the Norman Maine getting carted away section and especially, all the trimmed dialogue from Maine and Lester's nervous drive to her first premiere.
     
  15. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Well-Known Member

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    I would think with today's technology they'd be able to edit the audio to match the picture from the alternate take. Were they to revisit this restoration, that is.
     
  16. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Well-Known Member

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    Editing the audio to match the picture would not be good.... I'd edit the picture to match the sound though.
     
  17. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Well-Known Member

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    I suppose, if they mapped their faces and reanimated their lips like they did for a couple of lines of Jor El in the Donner Superman II.

    Audio would be much easier...
     
  18. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Well-Known Member

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    I don't agree - it would sound awkward since no two readings have the exact same inflections. Also, editing the audio mght change the running time, even if only be a second or so. Since the footage being used is an alternate take anyway, keeping the audio as it was and editing the picture to match it would be more truthful to the original film. And as an editor, I think that would be much easier and less noticeable that cutting and moving syllables around. The footage could be slowed inperceptibly or sped up - or interpolation used to create some in between frames if necesssary. Still, it isn't terrible the way it is now.
     
  19. Charles Ellis

    Charles Ellis Well-Known Member

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    Time to search the Warner vaults one more time for lost footage!
     
  20. Jay Pennington

    Jay Pennington Well-Known Member

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    And here I thought I was the only Pennington editor. [​IMG]
     

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