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I believe this as one of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen.
I enjoyed the story, the dialog and above all I enjoyed the atmosphere
and the actors. All of them are great but to me Fredric March is
Norman/Alfred is a wonderful character: frail, undignified, touchy, weak and able to love Vicki/Esther so much, with all his heart.
Fredric March brings all of it on the screen, providing one of his best performances here.
If you would like to become an actor, I believe you should watch this movie and Mr. March's way of acting. Pay attention to his eyes, his hands, his face and his moves, especially when he interrupts his wife thanking everybody for the Oscar she got and claims he deserves three statues for the worse performances.
He is overcome by himself and starts dying. I just shivered.
To me, this version can't be compared to its remakes. The allure and the fascination of Hollywood have been perfectly represented here, together with an unpleasant and creepy feeling of emptiness.
I had not watched this movie until today, passing up each opportunity
over the years to view it, as I feared it would not live up to the 1954
blockbuster starring Judy Garland and James Mason.
I was right, it does not; it far surpasses the 1954 remake. Judy Garland is my favorite all-round entertainer, favorite singer, and the songs in the 1954 movie are classic treasures, and James Mason never disappoints in any film. However, in the 1937 version the story is told more sensitively, with more shading. Janet Gaynor is perfect as the home-grown farm girl seeking to make her mark in Hollywood, and Fredric March is very convincing as the has-been who cannot cope with his declining value in Hollywood, especially since he caused much of it himself.
I had thought that I might miss the music in this earlier version, but I found after having watched it that I didn't miss it at all. The movie was engrossing from beginning to end and stood on its own merits. I was moved by this film in a way that I never had been by the later remake.
SEE this film if you love a good story; don't put it off for years the way I did. Simply, simply wonderful...
Fredric March gave a magnificent performance, probably the best of his
career, as Norman Maine, the actor whose career is in the descendant as
that of his wife, Vikki Lester, is in the ascendant in this, the first
'official' version of "A Star is Born", (the 1932 film "What Price
Hollywood" roughly told the same story). March displays just the right
degree of brashness, of knowingness, and a combination of ego and a
real actor's almost complete lack of ego. It's a miraculous piece of
As Lester, Janet Gaynor is touchingly blank but the star quality she is meant to display seems conspicuously absent; (in the 1954 musical remake Judy Garland was almost too much a star). It seems inconceivable that she could eclipse March on screen (even with his drinking). If Lester is a star and possibly a great actress Gaynor keeps the secret to herself.
The script for this version was partly written by Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell and it shows. It's an acerbic and, at times, savage movie about the movies, quite cynical for a major studio picture of it's day. It is very well directed by William Wellman who draws first-rate performances from the supporting cast, in particular Lionel Stander as a heartless, slime-ball studio hack. This remains the best of the three versions to come thus far.
Janet Gaynor plays Esther Blodgett beautifully, a girl who leaves for Hollywood with dreams of film magazines and the blessing of her granny. Once there she finds it tough-going until meeting Norman Maine (Fredric March) at a party. We've already seen Norman drunk at a theatre but here he charms Esther and actually gets her into the movies before marrying her and watching his own career crumble. March is excellent in this, and the look of the film is surprisingly modern with its lovely technicolor and gadgets (I particularly like the shower in the motor home Esther and Norman take on honeymoon). Esther's move to become star Vicki Lester, Oscar-winning actress, is unbelievable but as her real-life tragedy unfolds, compelling. And who can stay dry-eyed at the end? Remade with music and Judy Garland in 1954 (very well) but this first version is a jewel amongst other 30s classics.
When you see this masterpiece, remember that more than 65 years have passed
since it debuted on the big screen. How many contemporary films will dazzle
and delight in 2065?
Sure, we have seen this story before, but this was the first incarnation. Sure all films are in color today, but notice the rich, full-rigged use of color here, only a decade after talkies began. Dialogue sound familiar, well many of the lines originated here (thanks Dorothy Parker).
First caught this in the movie theatre around 1975 as this David O. Selznick production had been out of circulation. Judy Garland's troubled but ultimately engrossing and hugely entertaining remake was already familiar to me. So how does a classic compare to its first version. To me, it is one of the 1930's masterworks.
How perfect to cast Janet Gaynor in the role, an Oscar winner herself at 20 --- that child-like voice unforgettable. Fredric March, like Gaynor already a star and early Oscar recipient, world weary and helpless. The art deco, lavish production, haunting music, and scene after scene of "behind the scenes Hollywood", well they sure worked for me. "Kitsch" an old friend labeled it, but to me, memorable.
I love watching this movie --- hope you enjoy it as well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the all-time greats, A Star Is Born (1937) is a classic Hollywood story of power and love and the fickleness of fame. Janet Gaynor has her great talkie role and Fredric March has one of his best as the star-cross lovers, Esther Blodgett and Norman Maine. Both had already won Oscars, but both were worthy of wins here. Gaynor is wonderful as the country girl who yearns for Hollywood fame. She is a great comic actress, doing impressions of Hepburn, Garbo, and West while serving snacks at a party and trying to get noticed. She is also heartbreaking in her famous finale, "This is MRS. Norman Maine." March, who had a tendency to be hammy, strikes just the right balance between Norman's vulnerability and his pomposity. You never doubt that he loves Esther. The supporting cast is peerless, with Adolphe Menjou, May Robson (one of her best roles), Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, and Edgar Kennedy all good. The color photography is, although maybe a tad washed out now, still striking in its use of shadows. Great script and direction. One of the best. Gaynor and March deserved their Oscar nomination, but May Robson was robbed by not being nominated. Her character was left out of the 1954 remake, but she is the anchor of the 1937 version. A Star Is Born is a must for all film buffs, especially for those who have only see Gaynor is silent films, including the great Sunrise (1927).
Having seen the two later versions of this tale, it was a surprise to find
the original one, even if it doesn't compare with the 50s remake with Judy
Garland. This one is worth a look because of the great cinematography and
the use of color for a film made in the early years of its invention.
William Wellman deserves credit for his direction of a Hollywood story about
The mere idea of young and very naive, Esther Blodgett making it big in Hollywood, is stretching the imagination big time. This girl from the heart of the country yearns to be somebody in the pictures that are her escape from the dreary life she leads. To even think that she would have a chance in becoming a bit player, is a stretch of the imagination, but to have her become a star in her own right with her unsophisticated looks, is even harder to believe. Hollywood of those years was a factory of dreams where many went to be part of it, but for one Esther Blodgett, there were thousands who were rejected.
We watch as Esther is transformed into Vicki Lester, a star larger than life, who captures the public's imagination and goes to eclipse bigger stars such as Norman Maine, her discoverer, and the man she falls in love with. Norman's decline is very fast, while Vicki's ascent into glory is even faster. His drinking habit will get the best of him at a time when help agencies such as A.A. didn't exist. Unfortunately for Vicki, she ultimately has to pay for her own meteoric success.
The cast is superb. Not being a fan of Janet Gaynor, I have to confess that she strikes the right note with her Esther/Vicki role. She is totally believable even though we never even see her take an acting class, much less see her waiting tables to help herself. Frederick March brings an intensity to Norman, the self destructive star, that makes us pity him.
Adolphe Menjou is the studio head who sees a winner in the young, aspiring actress, and gives her the chance. Most surprising of all is the star performance of Lionel Standing as Matt Libby, the studio publicist who is behind the creation of the new star. Andy Devine, May Robson, and the rest are equally satisfying.
This film was a happy surprise in many aspects and will not disappoint.
This is perhaps my favorite movie from the thirties. The writing, the
acting, the directing, the music are virtually perfect. It is a rare kind
movie. The dialogue is sharp, smart, witty, compassionate, mature and
incredibly contemporary. It could have been written last week. It is not
afraid to deal with real life: alcoholism, drunk driving, failure,
suicide. The characters are real. The drama is firmly anchored in real
The writers are obviously good people who feel and think deeply. This
was blissfully free from the usual contrived plots. What a breath of fresh
The music alone makes it worth HEARING again and again.
I loved the fact that the movie didn't try prove anything. It just tells a story in an esthetically satisfying manner. It is of the same high quality as "The Best Years Of Our Lives". I haven't seen subsequent versions, but they cannot possibly be as good.
This the the most wonderful homage Hollywood ever paid to itself, to all those ordinary folks who became stars, or who valiantly tried and failed, or whose goals were more modest, and who achieved fulfillment behind the scenes.
This is the Hollywood epic standing proud and tall, and it is impossible not to shed a tear of admiration and affection.
A Star is Born has had two remakes since this 1937 version, but when
this film is discussed this is usually the version that stands out.
I guess if the story has a moral to it, it's that for one star in 'shimmering firmament' to be born one has to die. It can be a funny end like what happens to Lina Lamont in Singing in the Rain or it can be a tragic tale as what happens to Norman Maine in this film. But Kathy Selden and Vicki Lester do go on.
Esther Blodgett as played by Janet Gaynor is a symbol for all the young people, women in this case, who dream of seeing themselves on the big screen. Encouraged morally and financially by her grandmother May Robson, Gaynor goes to Hollywood and experiences all the frustrations of a young hopeful. But fate is on her side in the person of leading man Norman Maine, played by Fredric March in one of his best screen performances.
Though Gaynor and March were both nominated for Gaynor the part of Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester was no stretch for her. She'd been doing the part of fresh small town girls for most of her screen career, this being the best of them. For March however, he has to play a weak character, something he had not really tackled before.
I guess Hollywood knows itself better than anyone else and films about the industry can be scathing. The star is a creature with a fragile ego, one moment a whim can move mountains, a slip in public affections and no one wants to know you. March as Maine has been slipping for some time and he catches on, way too late.
But as March is going down, Gaynor is on the up escalator and they meet mid point and fall in love. How they deal with their joint careers or lack thereof in one case is what A Star is Born is all about.
March and Gaynor get good support from Adolphe Menjou as an understanding producer, Andy Devine as Gaynor's fellow boarder at her place of residence and most of all from Lionel Stander as the cynical press agent who inadvertently puts the finish to March's career.
Gaynor's final moment on the screen is one of the great classic events as she proclaims to the world she's Mrs. Norman Maine. And why March does what he does is will start an endless discussion of speculation. Watch this film and come to your own conclusion.
A very touching story and should be watched by everybody. The best part of it is you can value a person's love which is very precious and should not be wasted. The moral of the story, don't be too enjoyed with your victory or popularity and you may forget about who you are, originally. Once you are married, try to balance it with your career and your personal life.
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