Sheer talent and production value salvage this Judy Garland-James Mason edition of A Star is Born, whose troubled history has resulted in a restored version of the film that awkwardly layers the soundtrack over photo stills of lost footage at one point. That gambit doesn’t work, and neither does the decision, made just before the movie’s release, to insert a lengthy midpoint medley of stage performances (known as “Born in a Trunk”). It feels as if Garland has been dropped in the midst of a Jacques Tati set and told to dance until she couldn’t dance anymore. Garland’s health troubles caused plenty of delays, while also offering a meta element to the story. When her Vicki Lester, the low-level singer plucked for stardom by Mason’s aging actor, is forced to put on a fake nose, it’s a nod to the abusive image management that Garland herself endured. Garland and Mason don’t exactly generate sparks as a couple, and her histrionics in the dialogue scenes eventually overwhelm the picture. But early on, this has a a lot of Technicolor/CinemaScope magic (George Cukor directed the vast majority of it, though in the end it was left in Warner Bros. Pictures’ hands). The opening number at a benefit concert―in which Mason’s drunken Norman Maine stumbles onstage in the midst of Garland’s big band act, forcing her to coyly include him in the performance―is funny and suspenseful and features an elegant single take that swings from backstage to front. Later that night, Norman tracks Vicki down at a nightclub and surreptitiously watches her knock out “The Man That Got Away” with her band. It’s staggeringly sultry, a moment of a singer coming fully into her own, and makes you grateful that this Star is Born, even despite its funky final form, was made.