Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Det Jim McLeod

A Star is Born (1937) First Time Viewing

Recommended Posts

This is the one that started it all. 

This is the first time I saw it all the way through and I loved it. I have seen the 1954 Judy Garland version and the 2018 one with Lady Gaga. The best thing about those two were the music which is the one aspect not in the 1937 original. (I haven't seen the 1976 Barbra Streisand one but most people tell me I am not missing anything).

The two leads in this are excellent, Janet Gaynor is adorable and extremely likable as the wide eyed dreamer who makes it in the movies. Frederic March is properly intense as the washed up alcoholic actor. I was most surprised at how much comedy is in this, mostly supplied by great comic character actors like Andy Devine, Edgar Kennedy and Lionel Stander. Gaynor is hilarious in one scene when she imitates Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn and Mae West. 

What are your opinions of this version? Or you can compare it to your favorite version.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Janet Gaynor's success in the movies, playing that wide eyed innocent in film after film, obviously appealed to a lot of film fans during the late silents and through the early talkie years since she was a top box office star. But her appeal leaves me a little cold, and this applies to her performance in A Star Is Born, too. Judy Garland's performance in the same role years later would blow Gaynor's out of the water even more.

Fredric March, on the other hand, is quite magnificent as Norman Maine. Truth is in, ironically, playing an actor on the decline, March quite possibly never showed more on screen charm than in his early scenes in A Star Is Born. Obviously we have to see the best of Maine in order to appreciate his tragic fall all the more, and March succeeds brilliantly in that respect.

The supporting cast is fine, Adolphe Menjou in particular, as well as a vindictive Lionel Stander, but it's March's touching portrayal of self destructiveness that makes the film worth a repeat viewing. I wonder if John Barrymore ever saw this film and what, if any, momentary impact the Norman Maine portrait may have had upon him, since his own downfall is said to have at least been partial inspiration for the role of the alcoholic film actor.

Of course, 1932's What Price Hollywood (with Lowell Sherman, a long time friend of Barrymore, as a self destructive actor) was the original source for this film, and years before Fredric March had played a John Barrymore parody in The Royal Family of Broadway (Barrymore is said to have loved March's stage portrayal of him in the same property, and told March so back stage).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, TomJH said:

Judy Garland's performance in the same role years later would blow Gaynor's out of the water even more.

I agree Garland was the best Esther Blodgett, mostly for those riveting musical numbers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I agree Garland was the best Esther Blodgett, mostly for those riveting musical numbers.

Well, aside from the musical numbers, I think Garland to superior to Gaynor in the dramatic scenes, as well. Her scene with Charles Bickford, in which she weeps while barely holding herself together as she talks about her husband's decline, is heart wrenching. Gaynor has no scene in the first version that even remotely approaches this one in dramatic power. Then, again, Gaynor's success in the movies has always been a bit of a mystery to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with you TomJH on Garland's superior performance. If only someone with March's charisma had been cast with Garland for a better Norman Maine. James Mason is a great actor, but I find him far less charming & appealing than Fredric March in the same role.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd go for a "remake" of this movie that also isn't planned for making extra bucks in soundtrack recording sales. It's WHY I prefer the original, even OVER the Judy Garland remake, and I'm a HUGE Judy Garland fan!

Sepiatone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the '54 remake is overlong and lumpy. But Garland's heart wrenching rendition of "The Man That Got Away" is one of those indelible moments of movie magic that transfixes you as you watch her. I'm not even a Garland fan but, my God, she's magnificent here. Not only does she have that voice but she is also so emotionally committed to the song.

 

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, TomJH said:

I think the '54 remake is overlong and lumpy

I agree, especially the "restored" version with the surviving soundtrack and still photos. It's like watching DVD extras while the actual movie is playing.

  • Haha 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, Det Jim McLeod said:

I agree, especially the "restored" version with the surviving soundtrack and still photos. It's like watching DVD extras while the actual movie is playing.

Yeh, it's a bit of a chore to get through it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched the '54 version last night and the '37 version a couple of weeks ago.  These were my first views of the film.

I enjoyed the '37 version quite a bit but I thought the '54 version with Garland was better.   A bit more dramatic and the last hour was gut wrenching to watch.  

I do agree, kind of clunky and long though but the last hour made it worth it in the end.   I haven't seen the one made in the 70's or the 2018 one yet (plan on watching the 2018 one soon). 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On a side note, if you are a big fan of this movie, there is a book out by TCM called A Star is Born.   Came out last year.  I just bought it a few min ago on Kindle for 14.99.  

I'm hoping this gives some good insights into the backstory of Judy Garland and this film.   Supposedly she was disappointed with the reception and other things around the movie.

And I completely forgot that in 1932 the movie What Price, Hollywood? was the precursor to the A Star is Born movies.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/24/2019 at 8:53 AM, TomJH said:

Janet Gaynor's success in the movies, playing that wide eyed innocent in film after film, obviously appealed to a lot of film fans during the late silents and through the early talkie years since she was a top box office star. But her appeal leaves me a little cold, and this applies to her performance in A Star Is Born, too. Judy Garland's performance in the same role years later would blow Gaynor's out of the water even more.

Fredric March, on the other hand, is quite magnificent as Norman Maine. Truth is in, ironically, playing an actor on the decline, March quite possibly never showed more on screen charm than in his early scenes in A Star Is Born. Obviously we have to see the best of Maine in order to appreciate his tragic fall all the more, and March succeeds brilliantly in that respect.

The supporting cast is fine, Adolphe Menjou in particular, as well as a vindictive Lionel Stander, but it's March's touching portrayal of self destructiveness that makes the film worth a repeat viewing. I wonder if John Barrymore ever saw this film and what, if any, momentary impact the Norman Maine portrait may have had upon him, since his own downfall is said to have at least been partial inspiration for the role of the alcoholic film actor.

Of course, 1932's What Price Hollywood (with Lowell Sherman, a long time friend of Barrymore, as a self destructive actor) was the original source for this film, and years before Fredric March had played a John Barrymore parody in The Royal Family of Broadway (Barrymore is said to have loved March's stage portrayal of him in the same property, and told March so back stage).

I think the 1937 Star is Born is really March's show.  While I love Gaynor in her silent roles, especially Seventh Heaven and Street Angel, I can't believe that she is really star material in A Star is Born, just someone who was fortunate enough to be discovered when her type of sweetness and charm were the trend in actresses (and that trend didn't last long, as Gaynor herself retired from films not long after ward, while ironically, March remained a big star).  March is charming, funny, and ultimately tragic (The great writing also help a lot here; many posters have remarked on the wit of the 1937 screenlay).  While James Mason is a fine actor, I don't find him as appealing as March, and obviously, Garland's Esther Blodgett is an unknown whose incredible talent will easily overtake Maine's.  One feels that anyone could have discovered her and brought her to the recognition she deserved. 

I actually find the spirit of the 1937 film closer to the current remake with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga.  I actually liked the new version more than I expected, and found that Bradley Cooper's likability and sympathetic qualities made him more akin to March's portrayal than Mason's.   Lady Gaga's character is obviously a meteoric talent, but Cooper's character is also clearly someone of great talent, charm, and generosity, whose star is on the wane and who can't overcome his own self-destruction.  In both the 1937 and 2018 version film, I feel the real sense of the generosity and sacrifice that the male character is making, perhaps because in both those films the part of the male is better written.  The 1954 film is overbalanced in favor of Garland; Mason truly is just an adjunct, a "Mr. Vicky Lester."  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't say much about the female leads in these versions. The chief interest for me is the male lead. Frederic March is the American actor I probably respect the most of any American actor of his generation. Is he better cast than James Mason as Norman Maine? Mason is also a superb, extremely fine actor from the UK. He might even warrant a place alongside someone like Guinness; certainly he is a peer of Burton. Anyway so in this one lone case, I would choose Mason over March. Mason has the proper sombreness; the delicacy; a sort of fragility. And that marvelous voice.

For humor, I like Jack Carson's presence. Forget what version he was in. But his sardonic jibes were perfect.

The only thing I can heartily agree with about the female leads is that Garland's 'the Man that Got Away' is indeed, colossal. She reprised it at the London Palladium in her later years I believe--when the meds and the drugs had almost ruined her. Thats the version I savor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

I can't say much about the female leads in these versions. The chief interest for me is the male lead. Frederic March is the American actor I probably respect the most of any American actor of his generation. Is he better cast than James Mason as Norman Maine? Mason is also a superb, extremely fine actor from the UK. He might even warrant a place alongside someone like Guinness; certainly he is a peer of Burton. Anyway so in this one lone case, I would choose Mason over March. Mason has the proper sombreness; the delicacy; a sort of fragility. And that marvelous voice.

For humor, I like Jack Carson's presence. Forget what version he was in. But his sardonic jibes were perfect.

The only thing I can heartily agree with about the female leads is that Garland's 'the Man that Got Away' is indeed, colossal. She reprised it at the London Palladium in her later years I believe--when the meds and the drugs had almost ruined her. Thats the version I savor.

Carson was in the Garland version.  But I'll watch him in almost anything.  I guess part of my bias toward March is that I could fall in love with the guy in that movie.  I find Mason already a bit too needy, but March is someone who is a lot of fun, but also vulnerable.  You can see what made him a star and why people are still loyal to him and willing to cast him, despite his alcoholism.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed--I used to know a classics buff who was firm and loud about Jack Carson being his #1 favorite star. Out of the whole pantheon of American actors, Carson was his fave. I've already mentioned (in other threads) that my favorite movie reviewer was always just as ready to vouchsafe Leslie Nielsen as HIS favorite star. The same reviewer confessed to weeping when news of Mason's death was announced. I really admire this kind of loyalty and devotion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know if Carson is my favorite, but he is one of the character actors that I really enjoy.  There's something refereshing about his crassness and honesty.  In Mildred Pierce, I almost wish she ended up with him instead of Zachary Scott because at least Carson's honest about his bad intentions.  The last time I wept at a star's death when when James Garner passed (oh and I shed a few tears for Mary Tyler  Moore, but more for the memories of her TV show).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

By now it's fairly well known that ELVIS was supposed to co-star opposite *SREISAND in the 1976 version (**1/2) But, once again Col.tom Parker butted in & said NO WAY!   Obviously K. Kristofferson inherit the role.  One thing this version & the re4cent one have in common, both win the BEST O. SONG OSCAR ("EVERGREEN") & ("SHALLOW")  Nut newest installment was by far the biggest $draw$ at over $211m.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Unfortunately, Warner using '37-Star stock footage in Bugs Bunny's "What's Cooking, Doc?" has forever made it difficult to for me to watch the March/Gaynor version seriously, without quoting cartoon dialogue.  

 

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 2/24/2019 at 8:31 AM, Det Jim McLeod said:

Gaynor is hilarious in one scene when she imitates Greta Garbo, Katherine Hepburn and Mae West.

Interesting thing about this sequence. Max Steiner originally scored it with appropriate themes for each impression. Selznick had the music cut. Here is the scene with the original scoring restored (music taken from scoring acetates):

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...