A STAR IS BORN (1937) C 112m dir: William Wellman

w/Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, May Robson

Here's the original version of the poignant, dramatic story about a famous Hollywood star (March) whose popularity declines as his young actress-wife (Gaynor) reaches super-stardom. March and Gaynor are perfectly cast and elevate the story above mere sentimentality. Not quite as good as the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, but worthwhile.

From The Movie Guide: "A STAR IS BORN captures wonderfully the hustle of Hollywood, especially in scenes which show Gaynor being physically (and painfully) prepared for stardom by having her perfectly acceptable face redone by cosmetic experts, facial experts, eyebrow experts, hair stylists, and makeup magicians --- these scenes lack the forced 'let's kid Judy' energy of the 1954 version --- they're colder. It profiles the behind-the-scenes machinations of stars and producers, and it shows that, however accidentally, a person of talent, sincerity, and good-heartedness sometimes slips through the corrosive Hollywood system to become a star. The film is marvelously constructed by Wellman, who elicited superb performances from his stars.

"The dialogue created for this film is tough, and most of the words Stander is given to growl portray him and the many Hollywood types similar to his character as vindictive and ruthless, people with out pity. Even after March dies of drowning, Stander can only spit out vicious quips: 'First drink of water he's had in 20 years, and then he had to get it by accident. How do you wire congratulations to the Pacific Ocean?' Producer Menjou is no less cynical when evaluating the movie-going public: 'Fans will write to anyone for a picture. It only takes a three-cent stamp, and that makes pictures cheaper than wallpaper.' Of course, much of this acid-dripping dialogue stemmed from the black humor for which 'Algonquin Round Table' member [and one of the screenwriters] Dorothy Parker was famous."