When I first saw this film, I was in the middle of a marathon of all three versions, William A. Wellman’s 1937 version, George Cukor’s 1954 version and then finally this 1976 version. In comparison, this is probably the least impressive version. Something about it just doesn’t work. But, it is an interesting look at rock music and the machine and like the other two versions, is an interesting time capsule. The performances from both Streisand and Kristofferson are top notch and this new Blu-ray book is a must for fans of Babs.
As part of their year-long 90th anniversary celebration, Warner Bros. has been releasing some really great boxed sets. From their 100 Film Collection and their 50 Film Collection, to several 20 Film Collection sets. Last month they released a boxed set of 20 Best Picture winners and coming soon they are giving the same treatment to comedies, thrillers and romance. Last week they released a boxed set of 20 classical musicals (some of the musicals are from MGM, whose back catalogue WB owns), that is simply to die for. Really, my only complaint about the set is that the discs are clearly culled from older releases (The Wizard of Oz is disc one of the special 70th edition from a few years back and Viva Las Vegas is definitely from a previous Elvis collection). Despite that, each film comes with special features and at this price point ($90 retail, $60-70 at most online shops), this collection is a real bargain. It’s also a fun way to get a great overview of how the musical has changed over the years. After the cut, I’ll go through each disc with a little review of the transfer quality, special features, etc.
Esther Blodgett: You know as much about me now as I do myself. But you see how long it’s taken me to get this far. Now, all I need is just a little luck.
Norman Maine: What kind of luck?
Esther Blodgett: Oh, the kind of luck that every girl singer with a band dreams of. . .one night a talent scout from a big record company will come in and he’ll let me make a record.
Norman Maine: Yes, and then?
Esther Blodgett: Well, the record will become number one on the Hit Parade, it’ll be played on the jukeboxes all over the country. . .and I’ll be made. End of dream.
Norman Maine: There’s only one thing wrong with that.
Esther Blodgett: I know. . .it won’t happen!
Norman Maine: No, it might happen very easily. . .but the dream isn’t big enough.
The original version of the twice re-made A Star is Born (though, the plot quite resembles 1932’s What Price Hollywood?), is quite wonderful. Perhaps not as memorable as the George Cukor/Judy Garland 1954 musical adaptation, the 1937 version is miles and miles better than the mediocre 1976 Barbra Streisand version. It’s also in the public domain, so it’s available to watch for free in various quality all over the internet. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning one: Best Writing Original Story (won), Best Writing Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Assistant Director, Best Director, Best Picture. W. Howard Greene was rewarded an honorary plaque for the color photography of the film, an award that was “recommended by a committee of leading cinematographers after viewing all the color pictures made during the year”. The other films up for Best Picture that year were: The Awful Truth, Captains Courageous, Dead End, The Good Earth, In Old Chicago, Lost Horizon, One Hundred Men and a Girl, Stage Door and winner The Life of Emile Zola.