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Monday, August 17, 2015

A Star Is Born (1937)

A star struck farm girl (Janet Gaynor) travels to Hollywood with a dream to become a film actress. She doesn't have much luck until she meets the movie star Norman Maine (Fredric March) who takes a fancy to her and arranges for a screen test. The first film version (it was remade in 1954 and 1976) of A STAR IS BORN remains surprisingly effective. The story by now of a rising star married to a washed up star isn't as fresh as it was then (I'm not sure it was "fresh" in 1937) but it's just one of those plot lines that are near irresistible and the director William A. Wellman manages to keep the pathos in check as much as he can but lets it out when necessary. Gaynor is charming but the film belongs to Fredric March (an actor I'm normally not fond of) in possibly his best performance. Max Steiner's score overdoes it but the film has a solid supporting cast notably Adolphe Menjou as a studio head and Lionel Stander, very good as a studio publicist. Also in the cast: Mary Robson, Andy Devine, Peggy Wood, Franklin Pangborn and Elizabeth Jenns.

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