A Star Is Born


1h 51m 1937
A Star Is Born

Brief Synopsis

A fading matinee idol marries the young beginner he's shepherded to stardom.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 30, 1937
Premiere Information
World preview in Hollywood: 20 Apr 1937
Production Company
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,995ft (12 reels)

Synopsis

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.

Cast

Janet Gaynor

Esther Victoria Blodgett, later known as Vicki Lester

Fredric March

Norman Maine

Adolphe Menjou

Oliver Niles

May Robson

Lettie, Grandmother Blodgett

Andy Devine

Danny McGuire

Lionel Stander

Matt Libby

Owen Moore

Casey Burke

Peggy Wood

Miss Phillips, Central Casting Corp. clerk

Elizabeth Jenns

Anita Regis

Edgar Kennedy

Randall

J. C. Nugent

Esther's father

Guinn Williams

Posture coach

A. W. Sweatt

Esther's brother Aleck

Clara Blandick

Aunt Mattie

Irving Bacon

Station agent

Vince Barnett

Otto

Ferdinand Munier

Waiter at Burke's home

Claude King

John, man at party

Eddie Kane

Man at party

Bud Flanagan

Man at party

Herbert Evans

Bartender at Burke's home

Charles Williams

Assistant cameraman

Lillian Harmer

Wardrobe woman

Adrian Rosley

Makeup artist

Harry C. Bradley

Assistant to Niles

Myra Marsh

Assistant to Niles

Franklin Pangborn

Billy Moon

Edwin Maxwell

Voice coach

Arthur Hoyt

Assistant to makeup artist

Trixie Friganza

Mabel, waitress

Harvey Perry

Boxer

Joe Gray

Boxer

Jed Prouty

Artie Carver

Clarence Wilson

Justice of the peace

Fred Toones

Man on witness stand

Olin Howland

Judd Baker

George Chandler

Delivery man

Paul Stanton

Academy Awards speaker

Pat Flaherty

Cuddles

Margaret Tallichet

Marion, woman at Santa Anita clubhouse

David Newell

Man at Santa Anita clubhouse

Marshall Neilan

Man at Santa Anita clubhouse

Jonathan Hale

Judge

Robert Homans

Bailiff

Francis Ford

William Gregory

Kenneth Howell

Milton Rails

Chris-pin Martin

José Rodriguez

Grace Hayle

Woman in funeral mob scene

Tom Ricketts

Servant

Gayne Whitman

Radio announcer at Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Jean Gale

Blanche Bush

Virginia Dabney

Cynthia Westlake

Rex Evans

Billy Coe

Bill Dooley

Carleton Griffin

Eric Alden

Maria Shelton

Luana Walters

Kay Sutton

Dora Early

Sherry Hall

Armand Kaliz

Buddy Messinger

Leon Holmes

Renee Orsell

Sally Raynor

Harrison Greene

Photo Collections

A Star is Born (1937) - Lobby Card
Here is a lobby card from A Star is Born (1937), starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Star Is Born, A (1937) - Stop Mooning About Hollywood Producer David Selznick is credited with the framing device, introducing Esther (Janet Gaynor) and brother (A.W. Sweatt) telling father, aunt and granny (J.C. Nugent, Clara Blandick, May Robson) about a movie with Norman Maine (Fredric March, who will figure later), in A Star Is Born, 1937.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - You Know What Your Chances Are Looks to be the real office of the real Central Casting in Burbank as Esther (Janet Gaynor), in town for about a month, gets tough love from Peggy Wood, then her landlord (Edgar Kennedy) and meets new fellow tenant Danny (Andy Devine), early in David Selznick's A Star Is Born, 1937.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - Pronounced Vicki Vicki Mentor Norman (Fredric March) supports Esther (Janet Gaynor) in the screen test he arranged, then producer Oliver (Adolphe Menjou) signs her, and press agent Libby (Lionel Stander) discovers a problem, William A. Wellman directing David Selznick's original A Star Is Born, 1937.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - Here's My Epitaph Producer Oliver (Adolphe Menjou) is cleaning up after Norman (Fredric March), who surprisingly turns up, and has differing reactions to girlfriend Anita (Elizabeth Jenns) and moonlighting waitress Esther (Janet Gaynor), at their first proper meeting, in David Selznick's A Star Is Born, 1937.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - Sit Down You Dope! Producer David Selznick and director William A. Wellman executing the first-ever Technicolor shoot on location at the Hollywood Bowl, as Esther (Janet Gaynor) and Danny (Andy Devine) get their first look at Norman Maine (Fredric March), in A Star Is Born, 1937.
Star Is Born, A (1937) - Ginger Ale And What? A famous very early on-location Technicolor scene, William A. Wellman directing at the Santa Anita race track, where drying-out Norman (Fredric March) bumps into his crusty former press agent Libby (Lionel Stander), in the original A Star Is Born, 1937.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Apr 30, 1937
Premiere Information
World preview in Hollywood: 20 Apr 1937
Production Company
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
United Artists Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 51m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Noiseless Recording)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9,995ft (12 reels)

Award Wins

Best Original Story

1937

Best Writing, Screenplay

1938
William A. Wellman

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1937
Fredric March

Best Actress

1937
Janet Gaynor

Best Director

1937

Articles

A Star is Born (1937) - A Star is Born (1937)


While there have been numerous, well-regarded films about the film industry, from The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) to The Player (1992), none of them can touch the quintessential movie on this subject - the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. Originally based on an idea by director William Wellman, a script outline by Robert Carson and Wellman was pedaled from studio to studio by the director for years before David O. Selznick finally agreed to finance the film. It also helped that his wife, Irene (the daughter of Louis B. Mayer), thought the story had box-office potential. After giving Wellman the green light for production, Selznick became more involved in the creative process, requesting the film be made in the new three-color Technicolor process and demanding a title change from It Happened In Hollywood which was rumored to be the name of a competing project at Columbia Studios. Selznick also ordered numerous re-writes behind Wellman's back. Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell worked on the dialogue and Budd Schulberg, Ring Lardner, Jr., and John Lee Mahin are a few of the writers who contributed to the screenplay. Selznick's meddling finally ceased when Wellman threatened to sue through his agent, Myron Selznick, the producer's own brother! Regardless of the turmoil behind the camera, A Star Is Born proved to be a compelling subject for most moviegoers because it was based on the lives of a few Hollywood celebrities (It later inspired two remakes, one in 1954 and one in 1976). Obviously, it was a subject close to Selznick because he had made an earlier film - What Price Hollywood? (1932) - that covered some of the same territory (failed careers, alcoholism, suicide).

In A Star Is Born, the central premise concerns a fading matinee idol, Norman Maine, whose career is rapidly declining due to a drinking problem, and his wife, a budding actress whose career is just beginning and will soon eclipse his in terms of success. The fascinating thing about A Star Is Born is that in real life, the actors playing Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester, were having the reverse experience of their screen characters. Fredric March, in the role of the drunken has-been, was actually at the height of his profession while Janet Gaynor as the up-and-coming actress was really at the end of her career. Gaynor had been a major player ten years earlier when she scored a success in the silent classic, Seventh Heaven (1927). The same strange parallel also held true for the 1954 remake; James Mason was just beginning to establish himself as a leading man in Hollywood while Judy Garland was experiencing numerous health and emotional problems. A Star Is Born would be Garland's last major film role until Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) which was really only a lengthy cameo role.

In keeping with the fame and celebrity obsessed theme of A Star Is Born, Wellman cast many of Hollywood's former but forgotten greats in minor speaking parts like silent star Owen Moore and director Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan. Wellman even found a part for his ex-wife, actress Helene Chadwick, whose fan mail he used to deliver. Of course, the juiciest bits of the story were culled from real-life events. The Norman Maine character was loosely based on infamous stories surrounding John Barrymore and John Gilbert during their final years as self-destructive alcoholics. The climactic suicide at the end of A Star Is Born was also drawn from real-life; actor John Boles drowned himself in the ocean shortly after the death of his wife. The funeral scene bears an uncanny likeness to the way that Norma Shearer was mobbed by fans at her husband's funeral, an incident that occurred while A Star Is Born was in production. And the famous final speech by Vicki Lester was inspired by a national radio broadcast by the wife of Wallace Reid who died as a result of his morphine addiction. Her first words at the broadcast were, "This is Mrs. Wallace Reid....."

During the 1937 Oscar® race, A Star Is Born was up for six Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor), Best Director (Wellman), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, the only one of the nominations which won an award (for Wellman and Robert Carson). The Academy also gave A Star Is Born a special award for the color photography by W. Howard Greene. After winning his award, William Wellman reportedly took it to Selznick's table and said, "Here, You deserve this. You wrote more of it than I did."

Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: Jack Conway (uncredited), William A. Wellman
Screenplay: William A. Wellman (story), Robert Carson (story), Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson
Production Design: Lansing Holden
Cinematography: W. Howard Greene
Costume Design: Omar Kiam
Film Editing: Hal C. Kern (supervising), James E. Newcom
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Janet Gaynor (Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandma Lettie), Andy Devine (Danny McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby), Owen Moore (Casey Burke), Edgar Kennedy (Pop Randall), Peggy Wood (Miss Phillips).
C-111m. Closed captioning.

by Kerryn Sherrod
A Star Is Born  (1937) - A Star Is Born (1937)

A Star is Born (1937) - A Star is Born (1937)

While there have been numerous, well-regarded films about the film industry, from The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) to The Player (1992), none of them can touch the quintessential movie on this subject - the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. Originally based on an idea by director William Wellman, a script outline by Robert Carson and Wellman was pedaled from studio to studio by the director for years before David O. Selznick finally agreed to finance the film. It also helped that his wife, Irene (the daughter of Louis B. Mayer), thought the story had box-office potential. After giving Wellman the green light for production, Selznick became more involved in the creative process, requesting the film be made in the new three-color Technicolor process and demanding a title change from It Happened In Hollywood which was rumored to be the name of a competing project at Columbia Studios. Selznick also ordered numerous re-writes behind Wellman's back. Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell worked on the dialogue and Budd Schulberg, Ring Lardner, Jr., and John Lee Mahin are a few of the writers who contributed to the screenplay. Selznick's meddling finally ceased when Wellman threatened to sue through his agent, Myron Selznick, the producer's own brother! Regardless of the turmoil behind the camera, A Star Is Born proved to be a compelling subject for most moviegoers because it was based on the lives of a few Hollywood celebrities (It later inspired two remakes, one in 1954 and one in 1976). Obviously, it was a subject close to Selznick because he had made an earlier film - What Price Hollywood? (1932) - that covered some of the same territory (failed careers, alcoholism, suicide). In A Star Is Born, the central premise concerns a fading matinee idol, Norman Maine, whose career is rapidly declining due to a drinking problem, and his wife, a budding actress whose career is just beginning and will soon eclipse his in terms of success. The fascinating thing about A Star Is Born is that in real life, the actors playing Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester, were having the reverse experience of their screen characters. Fredric March, in the role of the drunken has-been, was actually at the height of his profession while Janet Gaynor as the up-and-coming actress was really at the end of her career. Gaynor had been a major player ten years earlier when she scored a success in the silent classic, Seventh Heaven (1927). The same strange parallel also held true for the 1954 remake; James Mason was just beginning to establish himself as a leading man in Hollywood while Judy Garland was experiencing numerous health and emotional problems. A Star Is Born would be Garland's last major film role until Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) which was really only a lengthy cameo role. In keeping with the fame and celebrity obsessed theme of A Star Is Born, Wellman cast many of Hollywood's former but forgotten greats in minor speaking parts like silent star Owen Moore and director Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan. Wellman even found a part for his ex-wife, actress Helene Chadwick, whose fan mail he used to deliver. Of course, the juiciest bits of the story were culled from real-life events. The Norman Maine character was loosely based on infamous stories surrounding John Barrymore and John Gilbert during their final years as self-destructive alcoholics. The climactic suicide at the end of A Star Is Born was also drawn from real-life; actor John Boles drowned himself in the ocean shortly after the death of his wife. The funeral scene bears an uncanny likeness to the way that Norma Shearer was mobbed by fans at her husband's funeral, an incident that occurred while A Star Is Born was in production. And the famous final speech by Vicki Lester was inspired by a national radio broadcast by the wife of Wallace Reid who died as a result of his morphine addiction. Her first words at the broadcast were, "This is Mrs. Wallace Reid....." During the 1937 Oscar® race, A Star Is Born was up for six Academy Award® nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor), Best Director (Wellman), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, the only one of the nominations which won an award (for Wellman and Robert Carson). The Academy also gave A Star Is Born a special award for the color photography by W. Howard Greene. After winning his award, William Wellman reportedly took it to Selznick's table and said, "Here, You deserve this. You wrote more of it than I did." Producer: David O. Selznick Director: Jack Conway (uncredited), William A. Wellman Screenplay: William A. Wellman (story), Robert Carson (story), Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson Production Design: Lansing Holden Cinematography: W. Howard Greene Costume Design: Omar Kiam Film Editing: Hal C. Kern (supervising), James E. Newcom Original Music: Max Steiner Principal Cast: Janet Gaynor (Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandma Lettie), Andy Devine (Danny McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby), Owen Moore (Casey Burke), Edgar Kennedy (Pop Randall), Peggy Wood (Miss Phillips). C-111m. Closed captioning. by Kerryn Sherrod

A Star is Born (1937)


"Nothing you really want is ever given away free. You have to pay for it, and usually with your heart." This line from William Wellman's 1937 A Star is Born articulates the core theme of this timeless classic Hollywood tale.

Tinseltown has always enjoyed turning a mirror on itself and pulling back the glittering curtain of the Hollywood machine to reveal the often harsh realities of showbiz. Films like What Price Hollywood? (1932), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and The Player (1992) have all skillfully made their marks in that arena. However, the standard bearer in this domain has always been the one and only original A Star is Born.

One of the first films to be shot in the new 3-strip Technicolor process, A Star is Born stars Janet Gaynor as Esther Blodgett, a starry-eyed Midwestern farm girl who dreams of going to Los Angeles and becoming a famous actress. Funded by her grandmother's nest egg, Esther makes it to Hollywood only to find that she is merely one of thousands of hopefuls with exactly the same dream. After months of pounding the pavement, however, Esther catches the eye of movie star Norman Maine (Fredric March) while working as a waitress at a posh Hollywood party. Soon, with the new name of Vicki Lester, Esther becomes Maine's co-star and wife. As Vicki's star quickly rises, however, Norman's has already begun to fall, fueled in no small part by his obvious alcoholism. Although Vicki tries everything to keep him on the wagon, Norman's self-destructive freefall eventually leads to tragedy.

In 1936, director William Wellman was under contract to famed producer David O. Selznick, a man whose work Wellman greatly admired. He was also writing regularly with Robert Carson, a partnership that had begun when the two were both at MGM. When Wellman went to work for Selznick International Pictures, it had been a stipulation that he could bring Carson along with him.

Wellman had always wanted to make a film about the ups and downs of Hollywood and the darker side of stardom. Drawing in part from some real life stories of movie stars whose careers had faltered like John Barrymore, John Gilbert, and silent star John Bowers, Wellman and Carson worked out the initial story of A Star is Born and pitched it to Selznick.

Even though Selznick had previously worked on the similarly themed What Price Hollywood?, he initially said no to Wellman's idea. "Stories of Hollywood are too much of a gamble," he said.

According to the 2015 Wellman biography Wild Bill Wellman written by his son William Wellman, Jr., the director decided to get some help from Selznick's wife Irene. Irene Selznick, who happened to be the daughter of MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, was a savvy woman well-versed in the movie business who knew a good story when she heard it. Fortunately for Wellman, she loved the idea of A Star is Born and promised to use her influence on her husband.

True to her word, Wellman soon received a call from David O. Selznick who said, "It's a gamble but worth taking a chance on. We will make an epic of Hollywood - we'll tear down all the tinsel, people will know the gutty Hollywood, the tragedy, the humor, the real truth. We'll start tonight."

With a green light on the production, Wellman and Carson finished writing the screenplay. However, Selznick was notorious for bringing in a multitude of additional writers to tinker with a script once it was done, so Wellman and Carson prepared for a battle. Sure enough, Selznick brought in what seemed like an endless parade of writers to work on A Star is Born including Rowland Brown, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell (Parker's husband) and Gene Fowler. Selznick himself contributed many of his own ideas as well. "I spent most of my pre-production days putting back all the writing that had been replaced by the bevy of writers that came and as quickly seemed to go," said Wellman.

When Wellman wrote one of the most famous scenes in A Star is Born in which a drunken Norman Maine crashes his wife's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards and bitterly rails against Hollywood, it came from somewhere personal. According to William Wellman, Jr., the scene was inspired by Wellman's getting snubbed years before for the Best Director Oscar nomination for Wings (1927) even though the film itself had won Best Picture. Not only was Wellman not nominated that year, but he wasn't even invited to the ceremony. "He stayed home alone in his apartment drinking heavily," said Wellman's son, William, Jr., "and enacting his version of an acceptance speech, one designed to let the Academy members know what he thought of them."

When the time came to cast the picture, Wellman wanted Janet Gaynor to play the role of Esther/Vicki. Selznick, however, wanted Merle Oberon. Wellman thought Oberon too mature and sophisticated for the part, and he fought--and finally won--to hire Gaynor. Gaynor, who had starred in F.W. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise (1927), had the distinction of being the first ever recipient of the Best Actress Academy Award in 1929. She had also just worked with Wellman in Small Town Girl (1936), and he knew she could bring the touching wide-eyed gentleness for which the part called.

There was no argument when it came to casting the role of washed up matinee idol Norman Maine. Both Wellman and Selznick wanted stage and screen star Fredric March. Considered one of the top actors of his time, March was also an Academy Award winner (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1931]) and had worked with Wellman once before on the 1937 comedy Nothing Sacred.

As production began on A Star is Born in October 1936, Selznick kept Wellman inundated with notes, memos and rewrites of the material. However, Wellman took it in stride, usually sticking to his guns and doing it the way he wanted anyway.

To add an air of veracity to the film, Wellman shot at some of Hollywood's most famous showbiz locations including Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, the Ambassador Hotel pool, the Santa Anita racetrack and the Trocadero nightclub. Additionally, Wellman cast several actors whose careers had significantly declined including, as Wellman, Jr. describes, "Tom Ricketts, a star in the director's When Husbands Flirt (1925), playing the butler at the Malibu home; Owen Moore, Mary Pickford's first husband and star of the silent era ruined by alcoholism; Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan, an outstanding director also taken down by the bottle. There were two child stars of the 1920s, Buddy Messenger, playing a young man delivering fan mail, and his sister Gertrude, seen at the climatic movie premiere."

When A Star is Born was released in April 1937, it was a smash hit, becoming one of the biggest box office and critical hits of the year. "It has the usual preface, attesting to the fictional quality of the characters and incidents depicted," said the New York Times, "but it is nonetheless the most accurate mirror ever held before the glittering, tinseled, trivial, generous, cruel, and ecstatic world that is Hollywood...Its script is bright, inventive, and forceful. Mr. Wellman's direction is expert." Time magazine called it "a brilliant, honest and unfailingly exciting picture which, in the welter of verbiage about Hollywood heretofore contributed by stage and screen, stands as the last word and the best," while Variety deemed it "a smash" and said, "it is one of those rare ones which everyone will want to see and will talk about."

Many critics also praised the film's use of the new 3-strip Technicolor process, which, much like the coming of sound, had been cause for debate within the movie world. Film Daily called the film's use of color "magnificent," while the Hollywood Reporter said, "the color is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming." The New York Times remarked on the subject, "Its color...proves Technicolor's value in a modern story."

William Wellman and Robert Carson won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story for A Star is Born, and cinematographer W. Howard Greene took home a special Academy Award for color photography. The film also received nominations in the Best Picture, Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Actress (Janet Gaynor), Best Director (William Wellman), Best Screenplay (Alan Campbell, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker), and Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey) categories.

The success of A Star is Born sparked a number of imitators as well as two big budget remakes: one in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and the other in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Over the years major stars including Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Beyoncé and Bradley Cooper have all been attached to various plans for contemporary remakes. The remarkable endurance of A Star is Born has proven that this time-tested story of glory and heartbreak in Hollywood still resonates from generation to generation.

Producer: David O. Selznick
Director: Jack Conway (uncredited), William A. Wellman
Screenplay: William A. Wellman (story), Robert Carson (story), Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson
Production Design: Lansing Holden
Cinematography: W. Howard Greene
Costume Design: Omar Kiam
Film Editing: Hal C. Kern (supervising), James E. Newcom
Original Music: Max Steiner
Principal Cast: Janet Gaynor (Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandma Lettie), Andy Devine (Danny McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby), Owen Moore (Casey Burke), Edgar Kennedy (Pop Randall), Peggy Wood (Miss Phillips).
C-111m. Closed captioning.

By Andrea Passafiume

A Star is Born (1937)

"Nothing you really want is ever given away free. You have to pay for it, and usually with your heart." This line from William Wellman's 1937 A Star is Born articulates the core theme of this timeless classic Hollywood tale. Tinseltown has always enjoyed turning a mirror on itself and pulling back the glittering curtain of the Hollywood machine to reveal the often harsh realities of showbiz. Films like What Price Hollywood? (1932), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and The Player (1992) have all skillfully made their marks in that arena. However, the standard bearer in this domain has always been the one and only original A Star is Born. One of the first films to be shot in the new 3-strip Technicolor process, A Star is Born stars Janet Gaynor as Esther Blodgett, a starry-eyed Midwestern farm girl who dreams of going to Los Angeles and becoming a famous actress. Funded by her grandmother's nest egg, Esther makes it to Hollywood only to find that she is merely one of thousands of hopefuls with exactly the same dream. After months of pounding the pavement, however, Esther catches the eye of movie star Norman Maine (Fredric March) while working as a waitress at a posh Hollywood party. Soon, with the new name of Vicki Lester, Esther becomes Maine's co-star and wife. As Vicki's star quickly rises, however, Norman's has already begun to fall, fueled in no small part by his obvious alcoholism. Although Vicki tries everything to keep him on the wagon, Norman's self-destructive freefall eventually leads to tragedy. In 1936, director William Wellman was under contract to famed producer David O. Selznick, a man whose work Wellman greatly admired. He was also writing regularly with Robert Carson, a partnership that had begun when the two were both at MGM. When Wellman went to work for Selznick International Pictures, it had been a stipulation that he could bring Carson along with him. Wellman had always wanted to make a film about the ups and downs of Hollywood and the darker side of stardom. Drawing in part from some real life stories of movie stars whose careers had faltered like John Barrymore, John Gilbert, and silent star John Bowers, Wellman and Carson worked out the initial story of A Star is Born and pitched it to Selznick. Even though Selznick had previously worked on the similarly themed What Price Hollywood?, he initially said no to Wellman's idea. "Stories of Hollywood are too much of a gamble," he said. According to the 2015 Wellman biography Wild Bill Wellman written by his son William Wellman, Jr., the director decided to get some help from Selznick's wife Irene. Irene Selznick, who happened to be the daughter of MGM chief Louis B. Mayer, was a savvy woman well-versed in the movie business who knew a good story when she heard it. Fortunately for Wellman, she loved the idea of A Star is Born and promised to use her influence on her husband. True to her word, Wellman soon received a call from David O. Selznick who said, "It's a gamble but worth taking a chance on. We will make an epic of Hollywood - we'll tear down all the tinsel, people will know the gutty Hollywood, the tragedy, the humor, the real truth. We'll start tonight." With a green light on the production, Wellman and Carson finished writing the screenplay. However, Selznick was notorious for bringing in a multitude of additional writers to tinker with a script once it was done, so Wellman and Carson prepared for a battle. Sure enough, Selznick brought in what seemed like an endless parade of writers to work on A Star is Born including Rowland Brown, Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell (Parker's husband) and Gene Fowler. Selznick himself contributed many of his own ideas as well. "I spent most of my pre-production days putting back all the writing that had been replaced by the bevy of writers that came and as quickly seemed to go," said Wellman. When Wellman wrote one of the most famous scenes in A Star is Born in which a drunken Norman Maine crashes his wife's acceptance speech at the Academy Awards and bitterly rails against Hollywood, it came from somewhere personal. According to William Wellman, Jr., the scene was inspired by Wellman's getting snubbed years before for the Best Director Oscar nomination for Wings (1927) even though the film itself had won Best Picture. Not only was Wellman not nominated that year, but he wasn't even invited to the ceremony. "He stayed home alone in his apartment drinking heavily," said Wellman's son, William, Jr., "and enacting his version of an acceptance speech, one designed to let the Academy members know what he thought of them." When the time came to cast the picture, Wellman wanted Janet Gaynor to play the role of Esther/Vicki. Selznick, however, wanted Merle Oberon. Wellman thought Oberon too mature and sophisticated for the part, and he fought--and finally won--to hire Gaynor. Gaynor, who had starred in F.W. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise (1927), had the distinction of being the first ever recipient of the Best Actress Academy Award in 1929. She had also just worked with Wellman in Small Town Girl (1936), and he knew she could bring the touching wide-eyed gentleness for which the part called. There was no argument when it came to casting the role of washed up matinee idol Norman Maine. Both Wellman and Selznick wanted stage and screen star Fredric March. Considered one of the top actors of his time, March was also an Academy Award winner (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde [1931]) and had worked with Wellman once before on the 1937 comedy Nothing Sacred. As production began on A Star is Born in October 1936, Selznick kept Wellman inundated with notes, memos and rewrites of the material. However, Wellman took it in stride, usually sticking to his guns and doing it the way he wanted anyway. To add an air of veracity to the film, Wellman shot at some of Hollywood's most famous showbiz locations including Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, the Ambassador Hotel pool, the Santa Anita racetrack and the Trocadero nightclub. Additionally, Wellman cast several actors whose careers had significantly declined including, as Wellman, Jr. describes, "Tom Ricketts, a star in the director's When Husbands Flirt (1925), playing the butler at the Malibu home; Owen Moore, Mary Pickford's first husband and star of the silent era ruined by alcoholism; Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan, an outstanding director also taken down by the bottle. There were two child stars of the 1920s, Buddy Messenger, playing a young man delivering fan mail, and his sister Gertrude, seen at the climatic movie premiere." When A Star is Born was released in April 1937, it was a smash hit, becoming one of the biggest box office and critical hits of the year. "It has the usual preface, attesting to the fictional quality of the characters and incidents depicted," said the New York Times, "but it is nonetheless the most accurate mirror ever held before the glittering, tinseled, trivial, generous, cruel, and ecstatic world that is Hollywood...Its script is bright, inventive, and forceful. Mr. Wellman's direction is expert." Time magazine called it "a brilliant, honest and unfailingly exciting picture which, in the welter of verbiage about Hollywood heretofore contributed by stage and screen, stands as the last word and the best," while Variety deemed it "a smash" and said, "it is one of those rare ones which everyone will want to see and will talk about." Many critics also praised the film's use of the new 3-strip Technicolor process, which, much like the coming of sound, had been cause for debate within the movie world. Film Daily called the film's use of color "magnificent," while the Hollywood Reporter said, "the color is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming." The New York Times remarked on the subject, "Its color...proves Technicolor's value in a modern story." William Wellman and Robert Carson won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story for A Star is Born, and cinematographer W. Howard Greene took home a special Academy Award for color photography. The film also received nominations in the Best Picture, Best Actor (Fredric March), Best Actress (Janet Gaynor), Best Director (William Wellman), Best Screenplay (Alan Campbell, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker), and Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey) categories. The success of A Star is Born sparked a number of imitators as well as two big budget remakes: one in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and the other in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Over the years major stars including Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Clint Eastwood, Beyoncé and Bradley Cooper have all been attached to various plans for contemporary remakes. The remarkable endurance of A Star is Born has proven that this time-tested story of glory and heartbreak in Hollywood still resonates from generation to generation. Producer: David O. Selznick Director: Jack Conway (uncredited), William A. Wellman Screenplay: William A. Wellman (story), Robert Carson (story), Dorothy Parker, Alan Campbell, Robert Carson Production Design: Lansing Holden Cinematography: W. Howard Greene Costume Design: Omar Kiam Film Editing: Hal C. Kern (supervising), James E. Newcom Original Music: Max Steiner Principal Cast: Janet Gaynor (Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester), Fredric March (Norman Maine), Adolphe Menjou (Oliver Niles), May Robson (Grandma Lettie), Andy Devine (Danny McGuire), Lionel Stander (Matt Libby), Owen Moore (Casey Burke), Edgar Kennedy (Pop Randall), Peggy Wood (Miss Phillips). C-111m. Closed captioning. By Andrea Passafiume

A Star is Born (1937)


While there have been numerous, well-regarded films about the film industry, from The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) to The Player (1992), none of them can touch the quintessential movie on this subject - the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. Originally based on an idea by director William Wellman, a script outline by Robert Carson and Wellman was pedaled from studio to studio by the director for years before David O. Selznick finally agreed to finance the film. It also helped that his wife, Irene (the daughter of Louis B. Mayer), thought the story had box-office potential. After giving Wellman the green light for production, Selznick became more involved in the creative process, requesting the film be made in the new three-color Technicolor process and demanding a title change from It Happened In Hollywood which was rumored to be the name of a competing project at Columbia Studios. Selznick also ordered numerous re-writes behind Wellman's back. Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell worked on the dialogue and Budd Schulberg, Ring Lardner, Jr., and John Lee Mahin are a few of the writers who contributed to the screenplay. Selznick's meddling finally ceased when Wellman threatened to sue through his agent, Myron Selznick, the producer's own brother! Regardless of the turmoil behind the camera, A Star Is Born (now on DVD from Image Entertainment) proved to be a compelling subject for most moviegoers because it was based on the lives of a few Hollywood celebrities (It later inspired two remakes, one in 1954 and one in 1976). Obviously, it was a subject close to Selznick because he had made an earlier film - What Price Hollywood? (1932) - that covered some of the same territory (failed careers, alcoholism, suicide).

In A Star Is Born, the central premise concerns a fading matinee idol, Norman Maine, whose career is rapidly declining due to a drinking problem, and his wife, a budding actress whose career is just beginning and will soon eclipse his in terms of success. The fascinating thing about A Star Is Born is that in real life, the actors playing Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester, were having the reverse experience of their screen characters. Fredric March, in the role of the drunken has-been, was actually at the height of his profession while Janet Gaynor as the up-and-coming actress was really at the end of her career. Gaynor had been a major player ten years earlier when she scored a success in the silent classic, Seventh Heaven (1927). The same strange parallel also held true for the 1954 remake; James Mason was just beginning to establish himself as a leading man in Hollywood while Judy Garland was experiencing numerous health and emotional problems. A Star Is Born would be Garland's last major film role until Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) which was really only a lengthy cameo role.

In keeping with the fame and celebrity obsessed theme of A Star Is Born, Wellman cast many of Hollywood's former but forgotten greats in minor speaking parts like silent star Owen Moore and director Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan. Wellman even found a part for his ex-wife, actress Helene Chadwick, whose fan mail he used to deliver. Of course, the juiciest bits of the story were culled from real-life events. The Norman Maine character was loosely based on infamous stories surrounding John Barrymore and John Gilbert during their final years as self-destructive alcoholics. The climactic suicide at the end of A Star Is Born was also drawn from real-life; actor John Boles drowned himself in the ocean shortly after the death of his wife. The funeral scene bears an uncanny likeness to the way that Norma Shearer was mobbed by fans at her husband's funeral, an incident that occurred while A Star Is Born was in production. And the famous final speech by Vicki Lester was inspired by a national radio broadcast by the wife of Wallace Reid who died as a result of his morphine addiction. Her first words at the broadcast were, "This is Mrs. Wallace Reid....."

During the 1937 Oscar® race, A Star Is Born was up for six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor), Best Director (Wellman), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, the only one of the nominations which won an award (for Wellman and Robert Carson). The Academy also gave A Star Is Born a special award for the color photography by W. Howard Greene. After winning his award, William Wellman reportedly took it to Selznick's table and said, "Here, You deserve this. You wrote more of it than I did."

Although promoted on the box art as the "Technicolor remaster from original 35mm nitrate," the Image Entertainment DVD of A Star is Born is still a public domain title. It's certainly the best version available in any format but be aware that the colors can be uneven from scene to scene and there are some noticeable splices throughout. The audio mix is good. There are no DVD extras.

For more information about A Star is Born, visit Image Entertainment.

by Jeff Stafford

A Star is Born (1937)

While there have been numerous, well-regarded films about the film industry, from The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) to The Player (1992), none of them can touch the quintessential movie on this subject - the 1937 version of A Star Is Born. Originally based on an idea by director William Wellman, a script outline by Robert Carson and Wellman was pedaled from studio to studio by the director for years before David O. Selznick finally agreed to finance the film. It also helped that his wife, Irene (the daughter of Louis B. Mayer), thought the story had box-office potential. After giving Wellman the green light for production, Selznick became more involved in the creative process, requesting the film be made in the new three-color Technicolor process and demanding a title change from It Happened In Hollywood which was rumored to be the name of a competing project at Columbia Studios. Selznick also ordered numerous re-writes behind Wellman's back. Dorothy Parker and her husband Alan Campbell worked on the dialogue and Budd Schulberg, Ring Lardner, Jr., and John Lee Mahin are a few of the writers who contributed to the screenplay. Selznick's meddling finally ceased when Wellman threatened to sue through his agent, Myron Selznick, the producer's own brother! Regardless of the turmoil behind the camera, A Star Is Born (now on DVD from Image Entertainment) proved to be a compelling subject for most moviegoers because it was based on the lives of a few Hollywood celebrities (It later inspired two remakes, one in 1954 and one in 1976). Obviously, it was a subject close to Selznick because he had made an earlier film - What Price Hollywood? (1932) - that covered some of the same territory (failed careers, alcoholism, suicide). In A Star Is Born, the central premise concerns a fading matinee idol, Norman Maine, whose career is rapidly declining due to a drinking problem, and his wife, a budding actress whose career is just beginning and will soon eclipse his in terms of success. The fascinating thing about A Star Is Born is that in real life, the actors playing Norman Maine and Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester, were having the reverse experience of their screen characters. Fredric March, in the role of the drunken has-been, was actually at the height of his profession while Janet Gaynor as the up-and-coming actress was really at the end of her career. Gaynor had been a major player ten years earlier when she scored a success in the silent classic, Seventh Heaven (1927). The same strange parallel also held true for the 1954 remake; James Mason was just beginning to establish himself as a leading man in Hollywood while Judy Garland was experiencing numerous health and emotional problems. A Star Is Born would be Garland's last major film role until Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) which was really only a lengthy cameo role. In keeping with the fame and celebrity obsessed theme of A Star Is Born, Wellman cast many of Hollywood's former but forgotten greats in minor speaking parts like silent star Owen Moore and director Marshall 'Mickey' Neilan. Wellman even found a part for his ex-wife, actress Helene Chadwick, whose fan mail he used to deliver. Of course, the juiciest bits of the story were culled from real-life events. The Norman Maine character was loosely based on infamous stories surrounding John Barrymore and John Gilbert during their final years as self-destructive alcoholics. The climactic suicide at the end of A Star Is Born was also drawn from real-life; actor John Boles drowned himself in the ocean shortly after the death of his wife. The funeral scene bears an uncanny likeness to the way that Norma Shearer was mobbed by fans at her husband's funeral, an incident that occurred while A Star Is Born was in production. And the famous final speech by Vicki Lester was inspired by a national radio broadcast by the wife of Wallace Reid who died as a result of his morphine addiction. Her first words at the broadcast were, "This is Mrs. Wallace Reid....." During the 1937 Oscar® race, A Star Is Born was up for six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor (March), Best Actress (Gaynor), Best Director (Wellman), Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, the only one of the nominations which won an award (for Wellman and Robert Carson). The Academy also gave A Star Is Born a special award for the color photography by W. Howard Greene. After winning his award, William Wellman reportedly took it to Selznick's table and said, "Here, You deserve this. You wrote more of it than I did." Although promoted on the box art as the "Technicolor remaster from original 35mm nitrate," the Image Entertainment DVD of A Star is Born is still a public domain title. It's certainly the best version available in any format but be aware that the colors can be uneven from scene to scene and there are some noticeable splices throughout. The audio mix is good. There are no DVD extras. For more information about A Star is Born, visit Image Entertainment. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

His work is beginning to interfere with his drinking.
- Casey Burke
Some day you won't laugh at me! I'm going out and have a real life! I'm gonna be somebody!
- Esther Blodgett
Do you think I'm slipping?
- Norman Maine
Can you take it?
- Oliver Niles
Yeah, go ahead.
- Norman Maine
The tense is wrong. You're not slipping -- you've slipped.
- Oliver Niles
What do they do with the actors while you're away?
- Norman Maine
Oh, they cut 'em into slices and fry 'em with eggs.
- Matt Libby
Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.
- Vicki Lester

Trivia

The celebrated final line of the film was an afterthought. The original scene had Esther arriving at the Chinese Theater and collapsing in the forecourt sobbing, "Oh, Norman! Norman!" The scene was reshot two ways: with the familiar "Mrs. Norman Maine" tagline and the oddly irrelevant "Hello, everybody, this is Vicki Lester."

Notes

According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, director William Wellman, in collaboration with Robert Carson, formerly a New York magazine writer and novelist, was developing a screenplay in early August 1936 entitled "It Happened in Hollywood," which was based on a idea by producer David O. Selznick. The projected film, to be made entirely in Technicolor, was to star Merle Oberon. Some modern sources state that Wellman came up with the original idea, which he based on experiences of people he knew, and that he tried to interest Selznick in the screenplay, which he was writing with Carson. Selznick, the sources state, expressed little interest until his wife Irene read it and encouraged him to produce it. This version of the creation of the story is disputed in a memo from Selznick dated January 7, 1937, after the initial shooting had ended, in which he wrote that the film "is much more my story than Wellman's or Carson's. I refused to take credit on it simply as a matter of policy....The actual original idea, the story line, and the vast majority of the story ideas of the scenes themselves are my own."
       Selznick, in a modern source, stated that his intention in making the film was "to disprove what I had long believed had been a tradition until this time, that pictures about Hollywood could not succeed" and that he would do this by presenting the story "of a rising star in order to have the Cinderella element, with her path crossing that of a falling star, to get the tragedy of the ex-star." After the film was produced, the legal department at RKO, for whom Selznick had produced What Price Hollywood? in 1932, recommended that a suit should be filed to charge Selznick International with plagiarism of the earlier film. No further information concerning the proposed suit has been located ( for What Price Hollywood?).
       In a memo dated September 21, 1938, Selznick stated that he originally spoke to George Cukor, the director of What Price Hollywood?, about directing A Star Is Born, but that Cukor declined. (In 1954, however, Cukor directed a remake of the film.) Cukor has stated, in modern sources, that the scene in which "Oliver Niles" visits "Norman Maine" in a sanitarium was inspired by a visit he himself made to John Barrymore in a Culver City, CA sanitarium, during which he offered Barrymore a role in Camille. Modern sources have suggested that the character of Norman Maine was based on Barrymore, John Gilbert, B. P. Schulberg and John Bowers. According to a Variety obituary and a Hollywood Reporter news item dated November 18, 1936, Bowers, a prominent film star in the years 1923-26, who had been married to Marguerite de la Motte at the height of his career, was found dead on a Malibu beach on November 17, 1936. He had rented a small sailboat on 15 November and had told a friend that he was going to commit suicide by "sailing away into the sunset." Bowers' death occurred approximately two weeks into the filming of A Star Is Born. Modern sources state that the funeral scene in the film was inspired by occurrences at the funeral in 1936 of M-G-M production chief Irving Thalberg, whose widow, actress Norma Shearer, was hounded by a mob outside the church.
       According to Hollywood Reporter news items, production was halted on December 7, 1936 when Wellman developed a case of the flu. He was replaced by Jack Conway until 19 Dec. A modern source states that when Wellman viewed the rushes of the funeral scene (which the modern source states was directed by Victor Fleming), he decided to reshoot it to have Janet Gaynor scream at the scene's conclusion. This was the first film of Margaret Tallichet and the first American film of British stage and screen actress Elizabeth Jenns. Although a Hollywood Reporter news item stated that this was the first film of J. C. Nugent in five years, in reality, he had appeared in two films in 1935, although those May have been his only films since 1931. Marshall Neilan, who plays a small role in the Santa Anita clubhouse scene, joined Selznick's writing staff in early December 1936, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. Sound recordist Oscar Lagerstrom's name is misspelled in the onscreen credits. According to a Daily Variety news item, the final scene in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was shot using crowds there for the preview of the United Artists release Rembrandt. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, initial filming was completed five days ahead of schedule.
       Scenes in the film were shot at the following places in and around Hollywood: Grauman's Chinese Theatre; the Club Trocadero; the Hollywood Legion Stadium, where the boxing match was filmed; the swimming pool at the Ambassador Hotel; the Santa Anita Racetrack; the Hollywood Bowl; an estate in Beverly Hills; and the Biltmore Bowl, where the Academy Awards ceremonies were held. A New York Times article states that the studio rented for two days the house of a prominent Los Angeles realtor for the country house sequence, and that the rental was arranged through the Film Location Bureau of the Assistance League.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph Breen, after reading an incomplete script before production began, ordered a drinking scene cut, but wrote to Selznick, "This is a great picture." Reviewers agreed and praised the film highly, particularly for its treatment of the subject matter. Frank S. Nugent, of New York Times, called it "the most accurate mirror ever held before the glittering, tinseled, trivial, generous, cruel and ecstatic world that is Hollywood," and Variety stated that the film was "unquestionably the most effective" film made about Hollywood. According to a New York Times article dated July 25, 1937, because of the success of A Star Is Born, which had only been in release for three months, fifteen films with Hollywood as their subject had either been completed or were in production. Reviewers also lauded the naturalistic use of color in the production. Film Daily called it the first film with a modern theme to be made in Technicolor. Nugent, in New York Times, stated that the film demonstrated that Technicolor "need not, should not, be restricted to the gaudy costume drama," and Hollywood Reporter remarked, "the color is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming." According to a New York Times news item during the production period, the scene during which a black-and-white film is projected in the preview screening marked the first time that the technique of projecting film on a transparency screen and then rephotographing it was used.
       According to modern sources, a number of writers in addition to those credited worked on the film. Ring Lardner, Jr., in his autobiography, states that he and Budd Schulberg wrote a few scenes, including the ending. At the time, according to Lardner, he was a twenty-one-year-old assistant to Selznick's publicity director, Russell Birdwell, and Schulberg was a reader in Selznick's story department. Other sources state that John Lee Mahin wrote the final scene, among others. While Matty Kemp is listed as having been cast in a Hollywood Reporter news item, he was not in the film. Modern sources state that this was the first film for both Lana Turner and Carole Landis, who, they claim, appeared as extra in the Santa Anita clubhouse scene. Modern sources also list the following additional cast members: Dr. Leonard Walker (Orchestra leader at Hollywood Bowl), Bob Perry (Referee), Willy Morris (Niles's secretary), Jane Barnes (Waitress), Edward Hearn (Orderly), Vera Steadman and Helene Chadwick, who was director William Wellman's first wife.
       The film was named the No. 1 Money Making Film of 1937 in a national exhibitors' poll. Wellman and Carson won the Academy Award for Writing (Original Story), and W. Howard Greene was awarded a Special Award for color photography, which was recommended by a committee of leading cinematographers. In addition, the film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Actor (Fredric March); Best Actress (Janet Gaynor); Best Director (William Wellman); and Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey).
       According to a Daily Variety news item dated March 1, 1938, Selznick planned to produce a sequel under the title Heartbreak Town, based on an original story by Budd Schulberg about the rise of a child star in Hollywood. The screenplay was to be written by Schulberg and Marshall Neilan, and the film was to star Tommy Kelly and Ann Gillis, who had played together in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. A Daily Variety news item dated August 18, 1938 noted that Schulberg and Neilan were working on a screen story entitled "Cavalcade on Hollywood," that would deal with the history of Hollywood. No further information concerning the proposed sequel has been located. A Star Is Born was remade twice: a 1954 version produced by Warner Bros., directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason; and a 1976 version, released by Warner Bros., produced by Jon Peters, directed by Frank Pierson, and starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Garland also appeared with Walter Pidgeon on a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast based on the film on December 28, 1942. On March 12, 1987, a reconstructed print of the 1937 film, preserved by UCLA Film and Television Archives, had its premiere.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1937

Released in United States on Video 1987

Released in United States March 1987

Released in United States August 1988

Released in United States September 1989

Released in United States January 1996

Shown at Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Tribute to the UCLA Film and Television Archive August 7 & 11, 1988.

Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1-11, 1989.

Fleming shot additional material for David O. Selznick. Ring Lardner, Jr. contributed the ending of the screenplay.

Released in United States 1937

Released in United States on Video 1987

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Programs from UCLA Film and Television Archive) March 11-26, 1987.)

Released in United States August 1988 (Shown at Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Tribute to the UCLA Film and Television Archive August 7 & 11, 1988.)

Released in United States September 1989 (Shown at Deauville Film Festival September 1-11, 1989.)

Released in United States January 1996 (Shown at Sundance Film Festival (William Wellman: American Storyteller) in Park City, Utah January 18-28, 1996.)