Q: I was recently watching "A Star Is Born," with Judy Garland, on TCM. In parts of the movie, they use pictures with conversation playing in the background -- I was wondering why they did that.

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Adam Thomlison / TV Media

That must have seemed pretty strange indeed. Airings of the restored version of the 1954 "A Star Is Born" (the second of four film versions so far) should start with an explanation of the strange story of how it came to be.

The film is now considered a classic, but it wasn't always. In fact, Warner Bros. hated it so much when it was first released that it pulled it out of theaters two weeks into its run and recut it, dropping a half-hour of screen time.

The version you were watching is a restoration of the original, but unfortunately some of the cut footage was lost forever. The soundtrack was found, though, so the restorers decided to just put up still photos to replace the lost scenes.

Historian and film preservationist Ronald Haver began the restoration in 1981, and eventually wrote a book about his experience. He said the task was "like putting a jigsaw puzzle together with a blindfold on."

It involved digging through storage facilities, poring over old scripts and listening to the soundtrack to try to guess what they were referring to.

It was a huge task, but it paid off -- mostly. As you saw, there are several minutes of the film that remain lost.

Another restoration was released in 2010, but this one, according to an L.A. Weekly review, was "cosmetic rather than structural." The missing footage is still missing, but what's there has been digitally restored.

It's a testament to Judy Garland's star power that interest in this version of the film remains after updated remakes with Barbra Streisand (1976) and Lady Gaga (2018).


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