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A Star is Born (1937)

A Star is Born 1937 poster.jpg

So you find out that the film you are going to watch has … at least ten writers. But look at their names:  David O. Selznick, Ring Lardner, Jr., Ben Hecht, John Lee Mahin, Budd Schulberg, Adela Rogers St John. And they’re the UNCREDITED contributors?! The story was by director William Wellman, one of the unsung Hollywood reliables, along with Robert Carson. But in fact the ‘story’ was devised and written by St John for the earlier film, What Price Hollywood? (1932, Cukor) which is widely acknowledged as the inspiration here. St John was a close friend of Colleen Moore, whose marriage to publicist and producer John McCormick is presumed to be the source for the idea. The other actors upon whom Norman Maine may have been based include John Gilbert, John Barrymore, Norman Kerry and John Bowers aka John Bowersox. Movie lore has it that Bowers had killed himself the year before upon finding that his old friend Henry Hathaway had cast Gary Cooper in a role he had hoped would be his comeback. And the screenplay is by Dorothy Parker (‘men don’t make passes …’ etc.) and her husband Alan Campbell and Carson.  Helluva cast list, don’t you think? And that’s before we get to the meat of the film itself – a great performance by Janet Gaynor, who’d been in Hollywood since the silents, along with Frederic March as the fading star, in this disquisition on acting, fame, Hollywood, talent, booze, marriage and celebrity. And any film that can boast an actress with the moniker Trixie Friganza can’t be bad. This is the first, non-musical version of the story. In some people’s minds it might be the best but the 1954 version Judy Garland and James Mason is unforgettable. And for Barbra Streisand, well it’s Evergreen. Happy Easter.

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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