Apr 8, 2012

Movie review: A star is born (1937)

Last night I re-watched A star is born and remembered I had written a review like two years ago, that was never published. Now I'm sharing this review, with some improvements. It's great to realize that the way I write reviews has changed; I used to tell the whole movie and consider that a review :)

A star is born (1937) Poster

I thought this movie was about a completely frivolous girl that wanted to become a star (obviously) by any means and it would have a lot of musical acts (one of the songs would be "A star is born", where hundreds of dancers would move around the girl, and a chorus would say something like "A star is boooorn, and you are the staaaaar, etc"). BUT -at least the version I watched, the one from 1937- was completely the opposite.

It made me cry. It made me laugh. I loved it.

So what's about? Well it's about a not-frivolous girl, Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor), who loves stars and dreams of becoming an actress. The problem is that she lives with an awful aunt, a mocking cousin, and a passive uncle, who don't believe in her at all and "encourage" her to get a husband. But she also has a really cool granny, (May Robson) who gives great speeches (For every dream of yours you make come true, you'll pay the price in heartbreak) and has money saved. Yay.

A story like this could have had a really soppy treatment, but the acting is great that we don't even stop to think about it. You see how the old granny gives her granddaughter all her savings, you see her waving at the train station in a cold dark night...you instantly root for the girl: she *must* go to Hollywood and be a star!

And  you suffer when you see that things in Hollywood are not too easy; that are hundreds of people who want the same, that despite the granny's sacrifice, Esther hasn't enough money to pay the rent (that also gives you the opportunity to visualize better how things worked then). And you're glad when she finds a good friend, Danny McGuire (Andy Devine) who tries to help her even when he's equally broke. And you're totally happy when she meets gorgeus famous actor Norman Maine (Fredric March), who helps her to get a contract with head of studio Mr. Oliver Niles (Adolphe Menjou) and become the great star Vicky Lester...
A star is born (1937): Janet Gaynor & Fredrich March

One of my favorite things from the movie is, obviously, Norman + Vicky: Their relationship is delightful and the script puts them in very original situations (like talking about marriage in the middle of a box fight). Both are funny (the scene where Esther is preparing her lines is priceless) and charming, and you see that Norman, a big star at the moment, who loves drinking and has problems with paparazzis is also very sweet and says things like:

"Hey!...Do you mind if I take just one more look?"
"You know, I'm a screen...I'm a... you know...but whatever I do I still respect lovely things and you're lovely"

A star is born (1937) Trailer

Another amusing scene is their honeymoon, wich remind me of Mickey's Trailer (1938). Mickey/Vicky are trying to cook in the moving trailer while Goofy/Norman are driving annoyingly indifferent. And then Donald/Norman tries to get a shower, etc.

But the strongest point is that the main drama still feels very real and relevant. It makes you comprehend a little bit more what famous people have to deal with, why is so difficult for them to overcome addictions and pressure. Fredric March could play drunk people in a very natural, believable way, without overacting (see also Merrily we go to hell). He makes the ending of this movie memorable.

A star is born (1937) is an excellent movie, with great actors/characters, moving interpretations, realistic but original situations and emotive scenes.


  1. This is my favorite movie! I absolutely love everything in it! My dream is togo to Hollywood and try my feet in the cement just like Esther does.
    It's nice when we see that our reviewing skills have got better :)

  2. Those who like this film should check out the original version of this story, "What Price Hollywood" (1932), one of Constance Bennett's best movies. It has much the same feel, and Connie is wonderful as the Brown Derby waitress who becomes a film star...only to discover silver screen fame isn't all sunshine.

  3. I like this version better than both the musical remakes. Janet Gaynor and Frederick March played well together.

  4. Clara,
    I'm glad the film was a nice surprise for you as I adore the film. I've actually seen all versions of it, even the one from 1976. (My mom loved that version since she had a crush on Kris Kristofferson.) It's sad that the 1954 version has pieces of it missing, it's spliced and choppy in parts. Judy Garland did a beautiful job with a very well written story.

    I cry ever time I see the film too!
    An Esther Blodgett fan,

  5. @Lê: Cool this one is your favorite movie! Yes, it's lovely, and I want to go to Hollywood too :) Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate you visit my site!

    @VP91955: I've heard a lot about "What Price Hollywood", I've been about to watch it in many ocassions, now I'll try to do it :) Thank you very much for the recommendation!

    @KimWilson: I haven't seen the musical remakes, but I really love this version too. Janet Gaynor + Frederic March are awesome together! Thanks for stopping by :)

    @Page: I haven't seen the one starring Judy, but I really want to check it, seems she did an awesome job too. Thanks for your comment, glad to see you around :)



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