Share all sharing alternatives for: how — and why — A Star Is Born ended up being one the Hollywood’s most remade stories


Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Lady Gaga have each play a rising star in a version of A Star Is Born.

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This story is part of a group of stories dubbed
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Janet Gaynor in the an initial A Star Is Born. United Artists however looking beyond specific plot beats, it’s always, at heart, a story around what the takes to it is in a celebrity in America, as well as what seeks does come close relationships. The faces, details, settings, and character an ideas may every vary, yet A Star Is Born keeps getting remade for a reason: the a story the romance and mortality, with a swooning arc that boundaries on epic. The feels so familiar, therefore archetypal, that it seems practically as if someone must also have carved it into cavern walls in primitive France, or attracted it in picture writing on part Sumerian scroll.

But of course, the not an ancient story — it’s one that depends on the distinctive machinations the the American celebrity-making machine. No wonder that proven therefore attractive come the filmmakers and also actors who save retelling the story, retooling that for one more generation.

There are actually 5 Hollywood version of the story — the very first one is just a tiny different in some key details, and doesn’t have the very same title. And while lock each change focus and change specific details, the allure remains the same, an especially to Academy Awards voters, who nominated the first four movies in many categories and also seem likely to carry out the exact same with the newest version.

So if you desire to understand what’s many interesting around the 2018 A Star Is Born — and why the story keeps being revolutionized — it’s precious looking at every of its predecessors, which intersect in dramatic and even tragic means with the resides of the civilization who do them.

What Price Hollywood? (1932): The one whereby they don’t get together

Director: George Cukor

Writer: Gene Fowler and also Rowland Brown, adjusted from a story by Adela Rogers St. Johns

Starring: Constance Bennett and also Lowell Sherman

Oscars: One nomination for best Story


The legend: some film buffs speak to 1932’s What Price Hollywood? the true an initial version of A Star Is Born, because the simple arc strongly resembles the later films. The stories are comparable enough that as soon as What Price Hollywood? director George Cukor was asked to direct the first A Star Is Born five year later, he refused. The similarities were so pronounced that RKO even taken into consideration suing, despite they ultimately decided not to.

The theme: What Price Hollywood? is the story of a young waitress and aspiring actress named Mary (Constance Bennett) who encounters a drunk, renowned movie director Max (Lowell Sherman) one night in ~ work. He brings her to a movie premiere and promises she a display screen test, yet doesn’t remember any of it the following morning.

She does finally get her possibility and, after some failed attempts, i do not care an Academy Award-winning success. At the exact same time, Max’s career tanks, and also he begins to protect against Mary to store from dragging she down through him. In the end, Max ultimately takes a hard look at himself and also decides his dissipated self is a disgrace to his former glory days. That shoots self in the chest, pass shame and controversy to mar in the process.

The variations: The film’s plot no exactly the same as the standard plot the A Star Is Born, in i m sorry the ingenue and also the aging star always end up together. Mary and Max never have actually a romantic connection: She marries another man, that grows jealous of her time and her career, and becomes pregnant by him — a truth she discovers simply after your divorce is finalized. After ~ Max’s fatality by suicide, mary flees to France, wherein she and her ex reconcile.

But the significant similarities between What Price Hollywood? and the subsequent A Star Is Born show something key: a story prefer this has always been in Hollywood’s DNA. Exactly how stars obtain made has caught imaginations due to the fact that the start — and also how lock fade has always felt prefer a tragedy. Put the two with each other in the same film, and also the sparks fly.

What Price Hollywood? is accessible on DVD and also is right now streaming on Filmstruck.

A Star Is Born (1937): The one the isn’t a musical

Director: wilhelm A. Wellman

Writer: William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and also Alan Campbell

Starring: Janet Gaynor and Fredric March

Oscars: 7 nominations; one success for best Writing (Original Story)


The legend: The an initial A Star Is Born to be directed by wilhelm A. Wellman, whose 1927 movie Wings won the an initial Academy compensation for best Picture. One of his co-writers to be critic and satirist Dorothy Parker, because that whom A Star Is Born represented one of her two Academy award nominations prior to her left-wing national politics landed her on the Hollywood Blacklist.

The movie stars Janet Gaynor as Esther Blodgett, a fresh-faced young woman that moves come Hollywood with stars in she eyes, and also Fredric March as Norman Maine, a stumbling drunk who career together a display screen star is already on the wane as soon as he meets Esther in ~ a party wherein she’s functioning as a caterer.

He promises to acquire her a screen test and, eventually, she signed to a studio contract and also renamed Vickie Lester by studio executives, who discover her actual name off-putting. Esther and Norman autumn in love and also elope; he struggles with her increasing fame and also spoils her Academy Awards speech; eventually, that kills himself by walking into the sea.

This to be a comeback moment for Gaynor, who was no climbing star: She had actually been a renowned actress and substantial box-office attract in the 1920s and also early 1930s, beginning in silent films and transitioning effectively to sound. She was the an initial actress to victory an Academy Award, and also she won because that three movies in the very same year, 1929: 7th Heaven, Sunrise: A song of 2 Humans, and Street Angel. (She’s the just actress to ever win for much more than one role.)

But by the middle of the 1930s, amid shifts and also mergers among movie studios, she career started to flag — specifically with younger stars favor Loretta Young and also Shirley Temple gaining prominence.

Then she landed the duty of Esther Blodgett (incidentally, the very same year she starred in a film v What Price Hollywood? star Constance Bennett). The film was a huge success and also revitalized her career, earning her a second Academy award nomination, though she lost to Luise Rainer.

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Is the price because that stardom a broken heart? joined Artists A Star Is Born to be Gaynor’s only Technicolor film, and also the an initial Technicolor film for March, that originated the function of the alcoholic fall star and earned his third Oscar nomination for the film. (He’d winner one previously, in 1931, and also would walk on to win secondary Oscar and also two Tonys in the 1940s and also 1950s.)

And if both March and Gaynor were among cinema’s most recognizable faces, Gaynor’s current misfortunes meant that that was simple to root because that her together she illustrated a young woman on the rise.

The theme: As the first real iteration the A Star Is Born, this one’s plot exemplifies a lot of the points that would mark future execution of the story.

To modern-day eyes, A Star Is Born’s gender politics can feel a small creepy, specifically Esther’s declaration in ~ the end of the movie — repeated in each succeeding film, however in various configurations — that she will certainly be recognized by she late husband’s name, “Mrs. Norman Maine.”

Since her (older) husband has both assisted her with success and acted in ways that deliberately or unintentionally will certainly sabotage the success, her dependency on him have the right to feel frustrating in ~ times. And also though the sex politics readjust a tiny with each iteration, the void in age and also questions about men’s and women’s routes to reputation remain.

Yet yes an authenticity come the relationship between the 2 characters, and also the jealousy in between them, that feels together if it could have been drawn from life. In fact, it was rumored the the marital relationship of display screen legend Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay to be the film’s real-life inspiration.

Another aspect of A Star Is Born that would certainly be repetitive in future versions is the centrality that the mrs character, and, perhaps most importantly, the means that the function was viewed as a means for an actress come breathe new life right into her career. The Norman personality is vital one in A Star Is Born, yet there’s a factor that the Esther personality has always been played by one icon, and that reason, most likely, is that Janet Gaynor played her first.

The variations: Gaynor and also March’s version is the only non-musical variation of A Star Is Born. Instead, the framed as a screenplay; the very first and last frames the the film are photos of a script page. And so the totality thing take away on a kind of mythical quality, a story the Hollywood fame, written and also produced through the Hollywood famous.

Norman and Esther struggle to maintain regulate of their very own star images, eloping in order to prevent the prying eye of celebrity journalists. The movie is specifically clear-eyed around how the fan magazines of beforehand Hollywood and also the tightly controlled images the studios developed for its contracted stars affect the real human being off display screen — something that feels a little startling, given that those same studios responsible for this movie. That adds a great of meta-commentary come the entire endeavor that is mostly absent from other versions.

The 1932 variation of A Star Is Born is currently streaming ~ above Filmstruck.

A Star Is Born (1954): The one the stars Judy Garland

Director: George Cukor

Writer: Moss Hart

Starring: Judy Garland and also James Mason

Oscars: 6 nominations; zero wins


The legend: In 1954, George Cukor — who had actually directed What Price Hollywood? almost a quarter century before but turned down the Gaynor/March A Star Is Born — was lastly ready to take an additional crack at this story. The studio lugged in Moss Hart, the wildly effective playwright and theatre director, to adapt the 1937 screenplay into a movie-musical, v songs through Harold Arden and also Ira Gershwin. They actors James Mason, the British actor who had made his shift to Hollywood five years earlier, as Norman Maine.

And, most importantly, they cast Judy Garland as Esther.

Garland was, by most accounts, not entirely stable while shoot the film. It had actually been 15 years because her most well known role, as Dorothy in The wizard of Oz. In the intervening years, she life had grown much more tumultuous; she’d competent breakdowns and also addiction and several self-destruction attempts. In 1950, she negotiated a release from she contract at MGM. She hadn’t make a movie since.

A Star Is Born was promoted as her comeback film. Manufacturing was apparently difficult, having actually to complete with Garland’s addictions, weight fluctuations, and illnesses. Executives at Warner Bros. Also decided, after ~ a far-ranging portion of the film had been completed, to reshoot so that it could be the very first of the studio’s movies in widescreen CinemaScope. Some sequences, including the an extensive “Born in a Trunk” music sequence, were shot after Cukor had already departed the production for another project.

And after test screenings, it was cut drastically in length by executives there is no Cukor’s input, under to 154 minutes. Cukor referred to as it “very painful” to watch. A number of the cut scenes and also musical numbers were re-added in a virtually three-hour “reconstructed” version of the film, released in theaters and also on residence video. Several of the scenes had actually to be included using manufacturing stills and also audio instead of relocating footage. (This is the version you can watch today on Filmstruck.)

The theme: In this A Star Is Born, Esther is a singer who Norman encounters one night together she sings in a club through her tape after hours. (The track Garland sings, “The man That got Away,” was ranked No. 11 on AFI’s list of 100 optimal songs in films, and also is often re-recorded.)


The border of the movie are lot the very same as the first one; Esther still i do not care a Hollywood star — this time via a movie musical, Garland’s signature genre — and is signed come a studio contract, and Norman’s mental health deteriorates together he watches her become an ext successful. He ruins her Academy Awards speech, and he kills himself, as in the previous version, by walking right into the sea. And also after his death, at a tribute event, Esther introduces it s her to the crowd as “Mrs. Norman Maine.”

The variations: Yet the movie feels different than the 1937 version, and is among the finest big-studio movie-musicals of the form’s mid-century heyday. Garland owns the screen, her an effective voice unforgettable also though girlfriend visibly deserve to see fluctuations in she physical wellness throughout the film.

Garland’s magnetism account for much of what distinguish this Star is Born from the former one — and also makes Esther’s talents clear pretty much right indigenous the start. As soon as she’s dubbed in come substitute for the command in a movie-musical who needs to withdraw, the no surprised that she pond it. The was difficult for someone choose Judy Garland come not seem favor a star.

Among the movie’s 6 Academy award nominations to be one for Garland, who remained in a hospital room recovering native the birth of her son during the ceremony. NBC sent out a camera crew to she hospital room, but she shed to elegant Kelly because that The country Girl.

Though this variation of A Star Is Born yielded the highly lauded comeback performance from a lover star, Garland’s display career never ever really recovered. She would execute on TV specials and also as a musical entertainer, however illness plagued her. Garland wouldn’t be in one more film till 1961’s Judgement in ~ Nuremberg, and also she only made 5 films complete after A Star Is Born. She died, in 1969, native a barbiturate overdose at age 47.

The 1954 version of A Star Is Born is currently streaming ~ above Filmstruck.

A Star Is Born (1976): The one set in the music industry

Director: frank Pierson

Writers: John Gregory Dunne, Joan Didion, and also Frank Pierson

Starring: Barbra Streisand and also Kris Kristofferson

Oscars: 4 nominations; one victory for ideal Original tune (“Evergreen”)


The legend: Garland’s power in the 1954 variation was important iconic, however about 20 years later, one more legend determined it to be time for an additional version of the story — this time, a much various version. Barbra Streisand executive-produced the film alongside her then-partner Jon Peters; she likewise wrote some of the songs and starred in it, playing Esther (who acquires a brand-new surname, Hoffman, here). That provides it the an initial version in which among its stars take it an active function in its production — miscellaneous that would certainly be echoed in the 2018 version.

Unlike her precursors in the duty of Esther, Streisand was in no need of a comeback in 1976. She was at the height of she game, and A Star Is Born would be her 10th film. Married screenwriting duo man Gregory Dunne and also Joan Didion, along with director candid Pierson, composed the new screenplay.

And by now, through the Star Is Born story firmly rooted in Hollywood’s iconography, the casting was extremely important as well. Streisand and also Peters thought about Neil Diamond and Marlon Brando for the male lead. At one point, they want Elvis, but his administrate demands verified too much. Eventually nation musician Kris Kristofferson was cast in the Norman role, his character rechristened as man Norman Howard.

The theme: In this version of the movie, the young, aspiring talent — played by Streisand — is discovered by a drunk, aging star together she’s performing in a nightclub. He trails her ago to she apartment, sleeps outside in his car, and then meets she for breakfast, where he falls in love through her and gives she a huge break. She falls for him, too, and also they marry.

But when she becomes much more successful, he becomes a jealousy wreck in thrall come his drug and alcohol addictions — even after they relocate to a remote desert home. She inspires that to produce some good work, and also he loves her. However he eventually, in the end, drives his auto off the roadway in what we’re intended to understand is suicide. At his memorial service, she sings a tune he created for her the she discovered on a cassette ice cream after his death. And she introduces herself as “Esther Hoffman Howard.”

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Kristoffersen and also Streisand in A Star Is Born. Warner Bros. The variations: This version of the story deviates considerably from its predecessors in one huge way: rather of being collection within the star-making machine of Hollywood, Dunne, Didion, and also Pierson moved the story to the music industry. And so A Star Is Born ended up being the tale of an aging rocker and also a young crooner, and also shifted that awards-show succession from the Oscars to the Grammys.

It likewise became an evident artifact that the 1970s. This version of A Star Is Born is more sexually explicit than previous people — it was 1976, after every — and John Norman Howard’s decline feels steeper than those of his predecessors. Esther’s reclamation of her husband’s surname feels much more influenced by the feminist motion of the era: she add to his last surname to her complete maiden name, fairly than calling it s her “Mrs. Man Norman Howard.” and also just stylistically, the feels favor a product the its time — in comparison to the controlled and tightly produced nature the its Hollywood predecessor, that feels loose, with more kinetic camera movement.

The solution to this version of the film to be mixed; you have the right to find civilization who dislike it, and others that declare it’s the finest of the bunch. The was generally disliked by critics, but it was a enormous hit, ending up being the third highest grossing film of 1976 — probably owing to both Streisand’s and, come a lesser degree, Kristofferson’s fame, and to high interest in see Streisand in a role that most iconically belonged to Judy Garland.

Among the film’s Oscar nominations was one because that the song “Evergreen (Love layout from A Star Is Born),” which Streisand composed and performed v lyrics indigenous Paul Williams. When it won, Streisand came to be the an initial woman to win an Oscar because that composing. And also it to be a enormous hit, spending three weeks in ~ No. 1 in the unified States and becoming among Streisand’s greatest hits.

And if opinions are blended on this version of A Star Is Born compared to that is predecessors, there’s no doubt that it’s a star rotate for Streisand — despite the reality that she hardly needed it may have actually hampered its possibilities overall. It also served together the primary incentive for the newest version of the film.

The 1976 version of A Star Is Born is streaming on Amazon Prime and easily accessible for digital rental on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.

A Star Is Born (2018)

Director: Bradley Cooper

Writers: Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, and Will Fetters

Starring: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Oscars: To be determined


The legend: This work again, please again of A Star Is Born is Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, yet there were lots that other methods this movie might have gone. At one point, Clint Eastwood was claimed to straight the film. Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, and also Beyoncé were all floated as possible female stars, v a organize of leading men attached as well — will certainly Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Cruise, Christian Bale.

But finally, in 2016, Cooper to be signed on not simply as co-star but director, and also Lady Gaga was included soon after. The movie began shooting in 2017 at Coachella. Scenes were later on shot in ~ Glastonbury as well, wherein the 1976 film’s star, Kris Kristofferson, gave 4 minutes of his set to Gaga for her performance. The film finally premiered at the Venice film Festival in 2018.

The theme: Bradley Cooper’s version of A Star Is Born color etc most clearly from Streisand’s in a number of ways. As in the film, the 2018 variation is collection in the music industry; it’s about a blues-rocker whose star is falling as result of his addictions and also a woman through undeniable talent together a popular music star; and there’s a scene collection at the Grammys.

Also as in Streisand’s version, this is a true passion task for Cooper, who went through extensive vocal and musical coaching. He’s preserved his personal connection to the film’s material private, however with his finger in the film’s directing, writing, songwriting, and performing, it’s plainly something around which he feels strongly.

Like both the 1954 and 1976 execution of the film, this A Star Is Born appears poised to nab, at minimum, an Oscar nomination for finest Original Song, this time because that the strength ballad “Shallow,” i m sorry Cooper and Gaga carry out at a pivotal minute in the film. But it seems to it is in a most likely candidate because that a couple of other nominations as fine — including for Sam Elliott, that plays Jackson’s larger brother and also manager, and also on whom Cooper modeled his own performance.

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Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born. Warner Bros. The variations: But there are differences, too. Now, the male star is called Jackson Maine (Cooper), a nod come the Norman Maines of previously films, and also the mrs star (Lady Gaga) has burned the surname “Esther” entirely, because that “Ally.”

It’s additionally the an initial version that seems to have almost entirely kicked the masculine jealousy trope, or at least taken into consideration it unjustified. Jackson experiences a little of envy that Ally is enduring success, and in some situations it reasons him to lash out. But Ally calls the on it, and they manage it favor any couple would. It’s no his jealousy that eventually does Jackson in; it’s his addictions — partly his reaction, it transforms out, to a really troubled childhood — that at some point are his biggest problem.

As such, this version of A Star Is Born is most interested not in the machinations the celebrity, but in the means relationships in between successful, an imaginative people can both spawn and also hamper that creativity — and how addiction deserve to play right into that. That difference feels natural and authentic in 2018, perhaps since stardom feels much less mysterious in a world of Instagram influencers and also YouTube stars 보다 it go in the past. The bigger question has end up being whether and also how civilization who acquire fame deserve to remain grounded.

Will this be the last A Star Is Born? It appears unlikely. As lengthy as there is Hollywood, over there will probably be much more versions of the same old story. The shape they take and the details will morph through the times, however the main point story — a love story, a melodrama, and a tragedy every wrapped right into one — seems to host unending appeal.

The 2018 variation of A Star Is Born opens in theatre on October 5.

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Correction: An earlier version the this piece had inaccuracies concerning the plot the What Price Hollywood? as it pertains to Max and Mary’s relationship and her Academy Awards win. They have actually been corrected.


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