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Posterized: A Star is Born

by Nathaniel R

How many versions of the oft-remade A Star is Born have you seen? There have been four now, five if you count What Price Hollywood, often forgotten because it has a different title but so alike in story beats that the first official A Star is Born was clearly lifting from it wholesale. Since the Judy Garland version they've all been musicals and as of the Barbra Streisand version, the Grammys replaced the Oscars as the key awards show moment when the new superstar wins big while her husband hits rock bottom. But more on all this later maybe..

WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? (1932) Director George Cukor 
Starring Constance Bennett & Lowell Sherman (1 Oscar nomination for writing)

A STAR IS BORN (1937) Director William Wellman (Cukor declined)
Starring Janet Gaynor & Fredric March (7 nominations including Director, Actor and Actress, 1 win for "original" writing even though the plot was lifted from the 1932 film!, 1 Honorary for its color photography in a then mostly black-and-white world. This is the only version that was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars)

A STAR IS BORN (1954) Director George Cukor again but this time it's a musical
Starring Judy Garland & James Mason (6 nominations: Actor, Actress, Costume Design, Art Direction, Score, Original Song "The Man That Got Away")

A STAR IS BORN (1976) Director Frank Pierson
Starring Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson (4 nominations including Cinematography, Sound, and Score, 1 win for Original Song "Evergreen")

A STAR IS BORN (2018) Director Bradley Cooper
Starring Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (Oscar fate to be determined)

Since the space inbetween each A Star is Born movies is growing each time, the sixth version should arrive around 2070. Mark your calendars! ;) 

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Reader Comments (22)

Shucks! 2070? I won't make it! In any case, I hope if it does take place they will run the risk of setting it in the world of Broadway. You see? Then, they would do away with the Oscars or the Grammys and long live the Tonys!

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Cukor was not nominated for directing for the 1954 remake.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterZooey

I've seen all but WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD. I say...

'37 - B+
'54 - A+
'76 - B-
'18 - A-

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Carden

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JSC Result 2018

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKibria

Saw them all - the last one, What a Price Hollywood, so hard to find! And so good - not required to be a Constance Bennett fan like me. The Barbra version is the weakest(and I am a fan) The three firsts are classics and I'm ready for Cooper-Gaga with careful expectations(can't be worst than the 1970's, but is this all that fantastic? Let's see...- I hope it does!).

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGwen

Is Babs bad in the 76 version or simply miscast.I can never tell,I know the 4,000 costume changes didn't help.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I have seen the '37, '54 and '76 versions, and they have been getting progressively worse. The '54 edition is too blatantly a "Garland comeback" film, and the narrative is flabby and sacrificed to give her more and more showbiz numbers. The '76 version is a pure Streisand vanity project, almost intolerable in some sections. The '37 version is so far the most compact and enjoyable. Looking forward to the '18 edition to see what Cooper and Lady Gaga can conjure up, but the long-ish running time is a bit of a flag.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAce Black

I rank them 1954, 2018, 1937, 1976. I like the 1937, though I think it moves too fast and Maine's alcoholism is treated too lighly. March and Gaynor have a lot of chemistry. 1954 is too long, but mostly fantastic. Judy Garland gives one of my favorite performances in any film. And yeah 1976 is baaaaaad.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

I've seen all but 1976, and I'd go:

1932: 5/5 stars (I was stunned by how much I loved it when I caught it last year-Bennett is terrific)
1937: 4/5 stars
1954: 5/5 stars
2016: 2/5 stars

I'll get to 1976 at some point, but considering how many people say it's the worst one, I'm in no hurry.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Nathaniel-how do you rank the five of them?

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

@Kibria Looool

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I have seen bits and pieces of the 32,37 and 76 but nothing tops Cukor's masterpiece- Garland and Mason are perfect- a great look at Hollywood in the 50's - show stopping production numbers and Judy singing "The Man that Got Away"- a film for the ages

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

All of them. Never heard of What Price Hollywood before.

Maybe it's time for a version in which she's the star and he is the aspiring actor/singer.

It's surprising how this new version ignores the times we are living. It could have been made in the 90s and no one would notice.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I've seen all but the new version.

I'll join the consensus that the '76 version is the weakest and like most I'm a Streisand fan. I think the biggest problem with it is that she didn't understand the core story wasn't the fame and all the isolating factors that forced on them but the real and gentle love story of the two characters that was strained but endured instead she coarsened it into mostly an unpleasant shouting match when she wasn't focusing the camera on herself. She's in great voice but that's not enough to sustain this particular film.

Of the other three my favorite remains the Judy Garland version even in its flawed restored state. The acting by all is just so great. I'm not referring to just Judy and James Mason though both are brilliant but I think it has the solidest supporting cast of the different version with Charles Bickford as studio head Oliver Niles, Tommy Noonan as true blue friend Danny and especially Jack Carson as hate filled agent Libby-he was deserving of a supporting actor nomination-all making the film more than just the central story.

A close second is the '37 version which is dramatically tight and beautifully performed. I read an interview with Janet Gaynor years ago, it was around the time the Streisand one was out in theatres and she said she loved the Garland take on the material but still felt that the earlier one was more relatable. She said that it was only a matter of time before someone as gifted as Judy would be discovered but the earlier one was about a regular girl who through luck and a connection with the camera rose through the ranks...which could happen to anyone. Apparently she didn't think much of the Babs redo either, when asked if she had seen the at the time new version she responded-Yes. and that was all she had to say about it!

What Price Hollywood? is sort of rough around the edges but a fascinating blueprint with a very sharp performance by Constance Bennett in the lead. It didn't move me the way the '37 & '54 films did but it's a fine piece of work.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

haven't seen the first two
have seen the garland version at least five times
gave up on the barbra version halfway through
new one hasn't been released here yet

so, on average, i'm up to date

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Saw them all. I can't decide whether Judy's or Gaga's is better. But for sure, the Streisand's version is the worst - no competition here although the songs were really good (Evergreen, lost inside, etc).

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJans

"Since the space inbetween each A Star is Born movies is growing each time, the sixth version should arrive around 2070. Mark your calendars! ;) "

I find it more depressing than maybe another 10 years have to pass for a new movie directed by Tamara Jenkins.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio


October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

Where is the poster of Up Close and Personal?

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I’ve only seen three: 1954, 1976, 2018. The fun of these is the wonderful female singer in each, so appropriate for their era.

The 1954 is my favourite. I love James Mason, and how the story is more tragic because he is a talent where you would mourn the loss: so unique, intensely talented, no one like him.

The 1976 and 2018 are about the same.

The 1976 version was popular, made a lot of money, audiences loved it, it won a bunch of Golden Globes. We can laugh at it now. It’s called a vanity project for Streisand.

The 2018 version looks to be popular, will make a lot of money, audiences seem to be loving it, it will probably win a bunch of Golden Globes. We can laugh at it later, shake our heads, and call it a vanity project for Bradley Cooper.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

1932 - 3/5
1937 - 4/5
1954 - 5/5
1976 - 1.5/5
2018 - 3.5/5

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

I find it funny how Babs is the only one of the three actresses not to be nominated for Best Actress but is the only one of the three to have an Oscar for the film.

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

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