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A screenplay entitled "A Star Is Born" is stamped with the words, "Final Shooting Script," then opened to reveal the following story: Esther Blodgett returns one winter evening to her home, an isolated farmhouse in North Dakota, after seeing a movie with her little brother Aleck, which starred her screen idol, Norman Maine. Esther's Aunt Mattie disdains Esther's obsession with the movies, and her father and grandmother Lettie are surprised to hear that Esther wants to be a movie star. After Mattie berates her, Esther runs to her room in tears. Lettie then tells Esther of her own past dreams of coming across the country in a "prairie schooner," and although she cautions Esther about the heartbreak that always comes to those who pursue their dreams, Lettie encourages Esther and gives her money to take a train to Hollywood. In Hollywood, Esther goes to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where she steps in the footprints of Norman Maine. Esther naïvely expects to begin immediately as an extra, but she learns the depressing news that no extra has been signed by Central Casting in the past two years. When she is told that she has only a one in one hundred thousand chance to succeed, she replies that maybe she is that "one." Esther makes friends with Danny McGuire, an out-of-work assistant director who lives in her roominghouse, and when he gets a job, they go to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, where Norman arrives drunk with actress Anita Regis and then starts a fight with a persistent photographer. Danny gets Esther a job as a waitress at a party his director is giving. Norman arrives at the party following another drunken escapade, which his exasperated press agent, Matt Libby, has kept out of the newspapers. Anita catches Norman in the kitchen flirting with Esther, and after she breaks a plate over his head, Norman and Esther leave together. Although he invites her to his place to talk over her career plans, Esther refuses, and after he gives her a goodnight kiss, he asks her to wait a moment so that he can take one last look at her before she goes in. Norman then phones and awakens studio head Oliver Niles at nearly three in the morning to arrange for a screen test for Esther, whose sincerity and honestness he praises. After the test, Esther signs a contract, and she is soon transformed by posture and voice coaches, and makeup artists into "Vicki Lester." Unable to find a suitable female lead for his next picture, Norman talks Oliver into using Esther, and she is a smash hit with the preview audience, who disparage Norman's performance. Norman and Esther celebrate at the Cafe Trocadero overlooking the city, where Norman tells Esther that she now can have anything in the world, but reveals that stardom has not made him happy and that he feels he has thrown his life away. Esther comforts him and tries to convinces him that it is not too late, and they hug. At a boxing match, Norman proposes marriage, and the couple marry quietly at a small town courthouse, which spoils Libby's plans to cash in on the publicity. Soon after their honeymoon trip in a trailer, Norman's contract is cancelled, and he is relegated to the role of house husband, while Esther becomes a top star. Norman starts drinking again, and during the Academy Awards ceremonies, he drunkenly interrupts Esther's acceptance speech for the award for finest performance by an actress and accidentally slaps her in the face. Sometime later, at Esther's instigation, Oliver visits Norman, now in a sanitarium, to offer him a role in a picture, but when Norman learns that it is not the lead, he good-naturedly declines. During Christmas week, Norman, out of the sanitarium and on the wagon, visits Santa Anita Racetrack, where he runs into Libby. Although Norman tries not to get riled as Libby brutally razzes him, when Libby crudely suggests that he is sponging off his wife, Norman hits Libby, who belts him. Norman then orders a bottle of scotch, and four days later, Esther learns that he has been arrested for crashing his car into a tree while intoxicated. Through Esther's pleading with the judge, Norman is released to her custody, but the newspapers make the incident into a front-page story. At their beach house in Malibu, Norman overhears Esther tell Oliver that she must now quit the movies so that she can go away with Norman. After Oliver leaves, Norman finds Esther crying. He tells her that he is going for a swim, and before he leaves her, he asks, as he did the night they met, for one last look at her. He then walks into the ocean and drowns. Outside the church where Norman's funeral is held, the uncaring comments and actions of Esther's fans cause her to scream hysterically. She is about to leave town, when Lettie arrives and convinces her that tragedy is a test and that she must not run away from herself. Later, as Esther is about to be interviewed on radio at a premiere in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, she sees Norman's footprints and starts to swoon, but she recovers and says with pride into the microphone, "Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine." The last page of the screenplay, which contains the above line, is shown, and the screenplay is closed.