Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A STAR IS BORN (1937), A STAR IS BORN (2018)

"My name is Mrs. Norman Maine!"-A Star is Born 1937

Frederic March and Janet Gaynor in
A Star is Born '37

The A Star is Born "franchise" began as a 1937 movie that I had heard a lot about but never got around to seeing until the newest version made a big splash over the last year. A Star is Born '37 is a movie about a small town girl named Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor) who goes to Hollywood to seek her fame and fortune. She meets with initial rejection until she runs into Hollywood star Norman Maine (Frederich March) at a party and they strike up a romance. Esther had seen Maine earlier at the Hollywood Bowl causing a drunken nuisance of himself.  Despite Norman's alcohol issues, the two fall in love, get married and Norman puts Esther in his next picture. The movie is a success, but it is due to overnight sensation Esther (Now going by the name Vicki Lester) instead of Norman, whose star is on the wane as well as his being too much of a pain for the studio to put up with. Vicki becomes a star and Norman begins his downward spiral which eventually leads to him walking into the ocean for the last time and Vicki proclaiming her love for him over the airwaves.

It's an interesting and obviously influential story about Hollywood. It also boasts some fine supporting players (Edgar Kennedy, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander and Clara "Auntie Em" Bandick.) I liked it, though it does seem a little dated and  I do prefer the '54 version.

James Mason and Judy Garland in
A Star is Born '54

A Star is Born morphed over time from being a movie about an aspiring actress to being about an aspiring singer.With Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand in the next versions, that probably seemed like an obvious road to go to. The only 1001 entry for A Star is Born (so far) is the 1954 version with Judy Garland. The 1976 version is usually regarded as the weakest of the Star is Born movies, but also has its fans.

Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in
A Star is Born '76

Scenes that are in all A Star is Born movies include the scene where the drunken Norman/John/Jackson makes a fool of himself at the Oscars/Grammys while Vicki/Esther/Ally is accepting a big award, the scene where Norman/John/Jackson goes to dry himself out and seems to be getting himself together, the scene where the Norman/John/Jackson is told that the female lead would be better off without him, the scene where we see the male lead commit suicide and the final scene where Vicki/Esther/Ally expresses her undying love for her departed husband. 

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in
A Star is Born '18

Bradley Cooper's recent version of A Star is Born was a critical and commercial success. Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a famous singer who has a drinking problem as well as a hearing loss problem. He meets an unheralded singer named Ally (Lady Gaga) performing in a bar one night. He recognizes the talent she has, they fall in love and he brings her on the stage and (spoiler!) she becomes a star! The chemistry between the two stars is the driving force of this movie, as well as the vocal talent of Lady Gaga. I think I'm going to have to go with A Star is Born '18 as my new favorite of the bunch, not to mention the fact that I can't get that Shallow song out of my head.

I'm already planning to watch A Star is Born 2044 (We'll have to designate the movies by century as well as by year by then) from my retirement community.

Janet Gaynor winning a pretend Oscar in
A Star is Born '37

Academy Award pedigree:
A Star is Born '37 won an Oscar for William Wellman's screenplay. Other nominations included Best Actor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor) and Best Director (Wellman)

A Star is Born '54 had six Oscar nominations, including: Best Actor (James Mason), Best Actress (Judy Garland, many think she should have won) and Best Song ("The Man That Got Away")

A Star is Born '76 won an Academy Award for the song "Evergreen " (Streisand and Paul Williams)

A Star is Born '18 was the first version to get a Best Picture nomination, as well as acting nominations for Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliot. Shallow won the award for Best Song and is playing in my head as we speak.

Lady Gaga wins a real Oscar
for A Star is Born '18

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