The Man That Got Away performances


A Star Is Born final version (HQ)


Portions of three versions in different costumes


The Man that Got Away, music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was written for the 1954 version of the movie A Star Is Born. Arlen had originally collaborated with Johnny Mercer, who wrote lyrics that began “I’ve seen Sequoia, it’s really very pretty, the art of Goya, and Rockefeller City, but since I saw you, I can’t believe my eyes.”[1] The Gershwin Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin contains a typescript draft of the lyrics with Ira Gershwin’s handwritten changes.

The best-known recording of this song was made by Judy Garland with the Warner Bros. orchestra under the direction of Ray Heindorf using an arrangement by Skip Martin. Judy’s performance of the song in A Star is Born is unusual for being filmed in one continuous shot. Garland (as Esther Blodgett) performs the song during an after hours rehearsal session in a smoky nightclub.

The song is was photographed in three different costumes on three different occasions, in over forty different partial or complete takes. Judy Garland prerecorded the song on September 3, 1953. The number was first filmed on October 21, 1953.

Changes were made to the costume and set and the number was re-filmed on October 29th. Art director Gene Allen said, “The first time it looked as if we had painted a set to look like a bar. So to give it a slightly impressionistic look I…put a scrim between the musicians and the back bar. If you look very carefully at that scene you can see the scrim nailed down on the floor…”

Garland did 27 takes of the number over three days, both partial and complete. But according to Allen, “Cukor had her doing bits of business before the song, and all of that action didn’t really fit the song – it was just too busy. And she didn’t look good – her costume was wrinkled, it didn’t fit right.” And the color was wrong: too brown.

It was filmed for a third time in February 1954, with new hairstyle and costume and a new set. – Excerpts from the wikipedia article The Man That Got Away

Judy Garland felt that The Man That Got Away was written personally for her by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin. It was a favorite which she regularly included in her nightclub act, and television series.


Carnegie Hall (audio) with a slide show montage of movie clips and photos. Click on the link; embedding has recently been disabled


The Judy Garland Show, a special which preceded the series of the same name which ran from 1963-64



Two performances on Judy’s television series The Judy Garland Show:

I don’t have the date for the first. I noticed that she wears the same gown at the London Palladium in November 1964 (see below).

to be replaced

Judy Garland sings “The Man That Got Away” on her television show. Airdate: 09/13/63.



The London Palladium, 16 November 1964


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Linda T.
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 19:51:16

    I have a copy of the “songbook” sheet music for this song, from “A Star is Born” showing Garland on the cover in her black costume and pixie haircut. Often wondered if it was worth anything to a true collector?



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