A STAR IS BORN: EIGHTY YEARS OF TRIUMPH, TEARS AND UNFORGETTABLE TUNES
Written by Nick Angus
In the film industry cosmos that currently transcends across a multitude of nations, we come face-to-face with a concept that has gained significant popularity, effect and dominance to this day: the remake. Known for its ability to revitalise or adapt an original piece of cinema, the remake has proven to be a key to astonishing success but also unfortunate collapse.
But how often has it been that an original piece of cinema has been adapted a further three times?
Famous for its heartrending storyline, loveable characters and alluring soundtrack, A Star is Born has stunned audiences for over eighty years now, proving there is no such thing as too many tries. So, let’s venture into the four separate versions of this renowned love-story, and discover how this narrative has flourished and fascinated in each of the respective remakes.
A tale of victory and loss, A Star is Born follows the journey of an aspiring artist and her induction into the bright lights of fame with the aid of an accomplished superstar. As romance blooms and a marriage promptly follows, the lives of the two individuals are skewed significantly, causing for the rise of one person’s career and the demise of the other’s.
With a major focus on fame, fortune and the dangers that can potentially develop from them, A Star is Born stands out as a striking film with an important message to relay to all – stardom cannot always lead to fulfilling happiness.
From the original 1937 film to 2018’s newly released masterpiece, the story of A Star Is Born has attracted the presence of diverse and intriguing talent, some of whom have had more connection to the story than initially perceived.
Proudly starring in their first Technicolour film, 1937 saw the inclusion of the famous faces of Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. For Gaynor, her existence in the film was motivated by the film’s producer, David O. Selznick, who believed she would portray the lead female character in a way that would coincide with her own true personality, a wholesome yet vulnerable woman. Appearing on Broadway as well as on screen, March claimed his lead role from the (at-the-time) rare power of freelance, after finishing a five-year contract with Paramount Pictures.
Gaynor and March both went on to each receive Academy Award nominations for their performances in the film - something that was considered to portray the unpleasant side of stardom for arguably the first time.
The original A Star Is Born film, won 'Best Original Story' at the 1938 Academy Awards. Cinematographer, W. Howard Greene was awarded an Honorary Oscar for the colour photography in A Star Is Born - it was the first colour film to get a Best Picture nomination!
Moving on to the first remake in 1954, and we became witness to two more talented individuals, Judy Garland and James Mason. While Garland’s critically praised performance in the film did manage to earn her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the deeper and unhappier connection to the film came about in Garland’s life when unfortunate addictions tainted the actress’s demanding career. Similar to Mason’s fictional lead character of Norman in the film, Garland struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction during her life, leading to a constant battle with internal anxieties - a circumstance that was shielded by bright lights, flashing cameras and the perpetual existence of living in fame.
The arrival of the 1976 remake was bold and daring, progressing to the loud and lively rock band setting instead of musical theatre which was at the core of the previous 1954 version. Overall, the film received mixed reviews. With Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as the leading stars, the film was criticised for the little chemistry that existed between the two lovers but then praised for the presence of Streisand’s larger than life vocals. Interestingly, this film gave the two artists, a stage music star and literary folksinger respectively, the opportunity to experience a new medium of music and experiment with different genres and compositions than usual.
Yet, if questions were raised about the necessity of a remake in 1976, then how did the most recent adaption in 2018 have any chance to succeed?
Directing his first-ever film, Hollywood star Bradley Cooper emerges with a film to challenge the past, prompting audiences to determine whether remakes actually have the potential to be the best. With the accompaniment of American pop-sensation, Lady Gaga, the newest remake has been nominated and predicted for multiple wins across the board at the 2019 Academy Awards.
To say 2018’s remake of A Star Is Born incorporates attractive tunes would be an understatement. From the punishing metal-rock opening track of Black Eyes to the serene and composed Always Remember Us This Way , the glossy and contemporaryLook What I Found to the illustrious Shallow , this year’s soundtrack has bedazzled and diverged in theme, genre and impact. Fittingly, it has gone beyond the shallow and into the deep-end of prominence, power and perplexion.
The 2018 remake directed by Bradley Cooper has received eight Academy Award nominations include Best Sound Mixing and Best Original Song - "Shallow".
Looking back to Streisand and Kristofferson, it is here where we transcended through the bouncy and perky I Believe In Love , the subtly-jazzed ballad Lost Inside Of You and finished with the acclaimed love theme song, Evergreen , which crescendos in notes, chords and deep emotional impact. The album for the 1976 remake proved a noticeable success, holding the number-one spot for six weeks on the Billboard 200 in 1977.
Diverging from the rock band influence seen in the two most recent films, the 1954 recreation included songs and ballads to align with the musical theatre medium. Familiar with Garland’s incredible vocals, it’s no surprise to have been blown away with her soothingly sensitive It’s A New World as well as her bold and passionate performance of The Man That Got Away . An honest, mature and powerful progression from the Yellow Brick Road of Oz.
Although the soundtrack for the original 1937 film was surprisingly not nominated for an Academy Award, the writers of Max Steiner and Dorothy Dick, as well as vocals by Buddy Clark, have made the various numbers renowned to this day. Suitably, the film’s presence in Technicolour was a greater marvel for audiences at that time in the industry.
For a story remade three times to be continuing to earn credit, worth and praise is a rare yet beautiful occasion. Drifting from the late 1930’s to the present-day, we have been able to witness diverging and unique gems in the film industry through which something powerful has been born. Something that will prove to stay present in the years to come and inspire all those with a passion: to love, to live and to never let go.
The latest adaption of A Star is Born, a true masterwork for its excellence in casting, soundtrack and originality, is out now in cinemas nationally.