The tradition of making an A Star is Born film in Hollywood began in 1937, with the release of the very first movie starring superstars Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. The film was a smash hit, and since then, every generation has made an updated version. Movie fans went buzzing when it was announced that Lady Gaga was to take over the iconic role in an upcoming remake co-starring Bradley Cooper. Cooper also takes directing duties for the first time ever. The film is set to be released on October 2018 by Warner Brothers (a hot month perceived to target awards season). Today, we decided to enlighten you with a little cinematic history. Did you know that starring in A Star is Born movie is a true Hollywood honor? Let us tell you why.
Over the last eighty years, there have been three different A Star is Born remakes, always featuring heavyweight stars in the industry. It is a tale that everybody knows. The lead roles of Esther and Norman Maine have always been coveted by the most esteemed of performers. In recent years, rumor had it that the source material was going to get a hip-hop treatment, starring Beyoncé and Jay-Z. That never materialized, and the film remained in development hell. Today, we are in the year in which a new A Star is Born movie is upon us. How will Gaga and Cooper fare in this highly anticipated remake?
The story of A Star is Born is a simple one, and it never changed over the years (apart from some minor alterations to fit the decade it is set). The first film in 1937 was about a young actress named Esther, trying to make it in Hollywood. She’s had many disappointments, but her luck changes when she meets a fading movie star named Norman Maine who is completely taken by her talent. Norman was once one of the most famous faces of the silver screen, but his career is on hold due to his bad habits and alcoholism. As he helps Esther’s star rise (and ultimately falls in love with her), his insecurities and inner demons begin to show, and he goes deeper into depression. He turns to alcohol even further to be able to deal with his fading fame. When Esther begins to overshadow him, Norman results to suicide, leaving his grieving wife free to achieve the ultimate success. It is a tragic story, but a timeless one that transcends generations. It shows the dark side of showbiz in an entertaining tale of fame, love, and lost.
The first 1937 version of the movie was a major hit, further cementing Gaynor and March’s icon status in the Golden Age era of filmmaking. It won the Oscar for Best Original Story, and was nominated for six other Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (William A. Wellman), and matching lead acting nominations for Gaynor and March. The source material became hot property, and big movie stars and production companies remained to eye it for a remake.
In 1954, the Queen of Entertainment Judy Garland and her producer husband Sidney Luft bought the rights to the film and decided it was time to update it as a musical feature. Garland found her leading man in James Mason, and production began in Warner Brothers under the direction of George Cukor. It was a long and turbulent shoot, with life imitating art, as Garland continued to battle her depression with alcohol and drugs. She, however, was amazing at re-invention and the musical film was a hit with audiences and critics alike. Garland was nominated for Best Actress (her only one in the lead category during a long career) and the film was up for five others major Oscar awards, unfortunately losing all. The actress was the frontrunner of awards season, but a surprise win for Grace Kelly for The Country Girl made it one of the most shocking nights in Oscar history ever.
More than two decades later, Oscar winner Barbra Streisand decided it was time for her to make her A Star is Born remake. Streisand, although rumored to be controlling and difficult to work with, was one of Hollywood’s greatest talents. She is one of the very few performers to have an Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony (although she has not been recognized as an EGOT due to one of the awards being an honorary one). She asked Kris Kristofferson to come onboard as her Norman Maine, and the movie’s setting was changed to the rock ‘n’ roll scene of the 1970s. Instead of a scene in which Esther receives an Oscar (both Gaynor and Garland did this in their films), Streisand’s version had her heroine receiving a Grammy instead.
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The film received mixed reviews from critics, but audiences loved it. It reflected in box office returns of $80 million, the third highest in 1976, after Rocky and To Fly! Despite its negative reception from critics, the movie still resulted to Oscar gold for Streisand. She won her second Oscar for penning the love theme of the movie Evergreen. She shares the award with co-writer Paul Williams. The film was also nominated for three other Academy Awards. Streisand’s A Star is Born also fared better at the Golden Globes, winning in all five categories it was nominated for, including Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Song Score and Original Song.
As Hollywood people and movie fans wait for October to see Lady Gaga’s big screen debut as Esther in Bradley Cooper’s remake, we hope our movie history entertained you for the meantime. We just wanted to point out the film is one to watch, as it is part of a long Hollywood history that’s spanned over 80 years. There is a lot of pressure on Gaga’s shoulders, especially following the act of three previous heavyweights found in Gaynor, Garland, and Streisand. A Star is Born is a lasting legacy in Tinseltown and it’s exciting to know that our generation is getting an updated edition as well. Will Gaga and company go for Oscar gold like their predecessors? Only time will tell.
By Chino R. Hernandez