DVD review: “A Star Is Born” 1937 (Blu-ray)
She is a peppy young ingénue come to Hollywood to break into the movie biz. He’s a dashing but dissipated matinee idol on the down side of his career.
Sounds like the outline of Michel Hazanavicius’ Oscar-winning “The Artist,” the silent, black-and-white homage to Hollywood’s golden age. But in fact, it’s an age-old tinseltown plot that’s informed everything from 1932’s “What Price Hollywood?” to three versions of “A Star is Born.”
Now, Kino Classics has released a Blu-ray edition of the original “A Star is Born” (1937), directed by William Wellman and starring Janet Gaynor as starry-eyed farm girl Esther Blodgett and Frederic March as the alcoholic movie star Norman Maine. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won two, for Best Original Screenplay and an honorary Oscar for groundbreaking color photography.
The story has almost fable-like contours (which Hazanavicius adroitly spun for his clever throwback film) in which fresh-faced young Esther gets her big break, marries her idol Norman and finds her star rising just as the drunken and devil-may-care Norman’s career goes into a tragic tailspin.
Twice more “A Star is Born” was adapted for major studio releases – in what many consider the superior 1954 version, directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason and in a roundly rejected 1976 rock interpretation by director Frank Pierson with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
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