A Star is Born

A young and pretty waitress learns to know a famous, but alcohol-addicted actor at a Hollywood party, who falls in love with right away with the pretty girl. He recognizes her great talent and promotes her. She quickly rises to stardom in Hollywood, while the alcohol completely destroys him.

This pretty trivial story was filmed in Hollywood several times. Among others with Barbara Streisand (1976) and Judy Garland (1954). This version, however, is the most successful ever.


21 Replies to “A Star is Born”

  1. The New York Times, in its TV listings always gives a little, quickie review of feature-length films and here's what it says about this one:

    "Not as good as Garland-Mason but in many ways more golden."

  2. People tend to forget that the 1954 remake was seen as a particularly risqué gamble not only because of Judy's instability but because of how beloved the original was for so many moviegoers, which is why the 1954 version shocked so many people when it turned out to be great. Since then the 1937 version has been relegated to an afterthought – but I think the films are more even than people give them credit for.

    For instance, March's no-nonsense openly disgruntled alcoholic Norman is far more realistic than Mason's more comical, even childlike version, sort of as a precursor to his equally ham-handed Humbert Humbert. The way Mason played Norman they might as well have called in the "professional drunk," Dean Martin, to play the part. Heck they could have gone with Foster Brooks without much difference.

     Likewise, while Gaynor's requisite sweetness contributes to the movie's heart and soul, she never reaches the magnificent pathos Judy does in her heart wrenching portrayal. To compare the two saying virtually the same lines is pretty telling, particularly the famous "he's getting worse" speech which Judy gives her all. By contrast, Gaynor treats them as throwaway lines without giving them much depth.

     The remake in its entirety (not the chopped up version) succeeded in telling the story better, allowing it to move faster, and of course the music is in a category unto itself.

    But what tips the scales in favor of Gaynor's version is the grandmother, something the remake really missed and couldn't replace with a "best friend" who seems to fill the void at the end. Esther's Grandmother essentially embodies the film's message, with her speech at the beginning and end, talking about being willing to risk a broken heart to go after your dreams, and her monologue is heartbreakingly poignant. So while Judy's version is a grand spectacle with a spectacular Oscar-worthy performance, Janet's version shows that its not about the bling but the heart.

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