Sometimes a gay sportswriter needs to remind himself that he’s gay. So last night I took a page out of the “Gilmore Girls” and watched all three “A Star Is Born”s.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the story. Big male alcoholic star plucks tiny lady from obscurity and gives her a chance. She succeeds, they fall in love and marry. Her career eclipses his. He loses his job. He gets in trouble. She decides to give up her career to make sure he’s safe. He kills himself. She goes on.
This film was made three times. The 1937 version starred Janet Gaynor and was produced by David O. Selznick. The 1954 version was a musical produced and starring Judy Garland as a comeback vehicle. And Barbra Streisand starred and produced the 1976 version.
What stunned me was not only how each movie was progressively longer than its predecessor. But I was shocked how timeless the original 1937 version was.
Of the three, the original was the one that stuck closest to the story. Both Judy and Babs’ versions loses themselves in their musical numbers, although I have to admit that I did a gay gasp when Judy first came on screen for her first number. Of course, of all of the musical numbers in that version that first one was probably the most germane to the story line.
As Judy’s version kept going, it becomes more and more clear that this was clearly a vehicle for Judy and her comeback. She was already a veritable mess on movie sets and with her love life. MGM had cancelled her contract years beforehand, and she partner with Jack Warner at Warner Brothers to release this movie.
It became funnier as you see James Mason’s character spiral down towards alcoholism while Judy was the stable one.
The most dated version was the Babs version. Instead of the movies, it’s set in the world of stadium rock of the 70s. Kris Kristofferson is the lead singer and guitarist for this Bachman Turner Overdrive type of stadium schlock rock band, and Babs sings what she sings. Basically it was everything that was bad about the 70s set to celluloid.
The most ridiculous scene came as Kris gives Babs her first big break. At a gig Kris becomes disinterested in his music. The crowd is on the verge of a riot. He tells Babs to come onstage and do her thing. She does reluctantly. She sings one of the prototypical power-Babs ballad, and the crowd loves her. Yeah, this stoned and drunk crowd expecting bad 70s rock loves the torch singer.
Then there is this:
It’s remarkable that in most cases the original is always the best. Here is its availability:
It’s also amazing that I actually did this.