Articles, Blog

Why Hollywood Keeps Remaking A Star Is Born


“Gotta tell you a secret. I think you might be a songwriter.” When we think about movies
that get remade again and again, a lot of them tend
to be literary classics or they might be monster horrors,
superhero epics. And then there’s A Star is Born. This Hollywood story of a man
who believes in a woman’s talent doesn’t immediately seem like a movie
that needs to be made over and over again – yet the fourth version of this movie is
hitting theaters. So what makes A Star is Born so timeless? “Hey. Do you mind
if I take just one more look?” “Hey.” “Hmm?” “I just want to take
another look at you.” “Hey, Esther.” “What?” “I was just taking another look.” “Hey.” “What?” “I just wanted to take
another look at you.” The 2018 version has crafted
a canny marketing strategy around stars Lady Gaga
and Bradley Cooper that taps into what the story
has always been about: the power of two artists
who believe in each other’s talent. “When you see an artist of that caliber
treats you like a peer, it’s very emboldening.” “There was a true exchange: he accepted me as an actress,
and I accepted him fully as a musician.” This movie is the quintessential
Hollywood tale. “Here she is, ladies and gentlemen,
a star that shines bright and high.” capturing the all-encompassing
romance of show business: the thrill of someone truly believing in you,
the rise to stardom, the pitfalls of fame, and the complex male/female dynamics
of the process. So let’s look back at all of
the Star is Born movies and explore why our culture keeps
returning to this tale. “I have ‘A Star is Born,’
all three versions. We can compare and contrast
performances and dosages.” “Don’t settle for the little dream. Go on to the big one.” Before we go on,
we want to talk a little bit about this video’s sponsor —
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for free. “Norman, it’s so exciting.” “A star is born.” The premise of A Star is Born is this: a world-weary star meets a talented ingenue
and encourages her to follow her dreams. “He’ll soon know your name, Esther. The whole world’s going to know it.” They fall in love
and she becomes a huge success, at the same time as his inner demons
are driving his career downhill. “I’m sorry, baby. I can’t find my place. They don’t seem to have a place
for me down here.” Beware, spoilers are coming for
the older versions of the movie but not the 2018 version. Eventually, he dies. In the 1937 and 1954 movies
the man drowns himself, and in the 1976 version he dies
in a car crash after some reckless driving. This story has now been made
into four movies, and they each came out
in a very different decade. A fifth movie, George Cukor’s
What Price Hollywood? in 1932, is also sometimes considered
an unofficial precursor and inspiration for A Star is Born. “You’re a motion picture star;
you belong to the public. They make you and they break you.” Cukor actually turned down
the opportunity to direct the first version
of A Star is Born in ’37 because he thought it was
too similar to What Price Hollywood?. “Why do you drink all the time? Can’t you cut the heavy swilling?” “One’d be bored all the time.” “No, Mr. Niles isn’t slipping me
a case of scotch, Cuddles. This is just a handshake.” But he eventually went on to direct
the ’54 musical remake starring Judy Garland
and James Mason, which is considered the best version
up to this point. “She said that’s what star quality was,
that little something extra. Well, you’ve got it.” The 76 movie, starring Barbra Streisand
and Kris Kristofferson, kept the same basic plot
as the two earlier films, but set the story in the music world – “There’s a little ball of fire inside you
whenever you hook into a big marlin, and you never forget it. And that’s what it felt like…
hearing you sing.” and the new A Star is Born focuses
on the music industry, too. “It’s the same story,
all over and over.” You might be wondering —
is A Star is Born based on a true story? The ’37 movie took some inspiration
from the lives of real stars like John Barrymore
and John Bowers — Bowers was a silent film star
who drowned in a presumed suicide while A Star is Born was in production. People have also speculated
that the central relationship in the ’37 movie was based on the real-life marriage
of Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay, since Stanwyck became very successful
as Fay’s career faltered, just like in the film. The casting of Lady Gaga
as the female lead, Ally, is a savvy meta move that completely fits
with both the narrative and the history of A Star is Born. This film capitalizes
on Gaga’s real life journey from being Stefani Germanotta
to becoming a pop icon. “This movie is a story that I know,
that’s a part of my real life.” We’ve seen other movies play on
an actor’s persona or life story — think Iron Man, The Wrestler,
or Sunset Boulevard. And this technique is so effective
because it indulges the viewer’s curiosity about the actor’s real personality and past. There’s kind of a mythology surrounding
Lady Gaga’s rise to fame — because she’s such a performative,
shapeshifting star, her pre-fame self feels
very mysterious to us. So A Star is Born lets us experience
what that journey may have been like for her, and also exposes
a stripped-down version of her that we’ve never had access to before. The new movie also plays on Lady Gaga’s
real-life relationship to her appearance. Gaga has said, quote, “When my character talks about
how ugly she feels — that was real. I’m so insecure.” She’s described being told to
get a nose job early in her career — and in the film,
Ally has faced the same thing. “Almost every single person
that I’ve come in contact with in the music industry has told me
that my nose is too big, and that I won’t make it.” The 1954 A Star is Born played on
Judy Garland’s persona in the same way. Garland was known for being
very insecure about her looks. “It’s the nose. The nose is the problem.” It’s kind of surprising
that the 1976 movie didn’t make this a part of Barbra Streisand’s
character’s story, too — since it’s well-known that Streisand was
not considered conventionally beautiful and refused to get a nose job. Cooper and Lady Gaga have also been
incredibly clever about crafting a narrative around making this movie
that mirrors the story itself: “I’ve always wanted to be an actress, and there can be 100 people in the room
and 99 don’t believe in you and you just need one to believe in you
and that was him.” just as Jackson Maine discovers
Ally as a singer, press around the film has been
fanning the idea of Cooper believing in Lady Gaga
as an actress when no one else did, even though she’s already won
a Golden Globe for acting. Listen to this anecdote about Cooper
insisting that Gaga go makeup-free during the screen test. “He had a makeup wipe in his hand
and he put his hand on my face and he went like this
and there was makeup. We had put just a little bit,
and he said ‘I want no makeup on your face.’” “Now, take every bit of that junk
off your face.” So this story is about Cooper making Lady
Gaga feel comfortable in her own skin, just as Jackson encourages Ally
to sing her own songs and love her nose. “Your nose is beautiful.” Pretty much every interview Cooper
and Lady Gaga do together is a love-fest. “I just fell in love
with her face and eyes, I mean, there wasn’t anything
other than that — I just wanted to be
as close as possible in shooting it.” “She’s such a beautiful human being.” “So are you. Thank you, Bradley.” So in these offscreen marketing situations, these two stars are recreating
the A Star is Born romance – the idea of having an artistic partner
who sees your potential, is completely captivated by your talent,
and has boundless faith in you. “Look at me. All you gotta do is trust me. That’s all you gotta do.” This shrewd casting
and marketing – the way that the story of fame
extends offscreen – has always been a part
of A Star is Born. The 1954 version was intended
as a comeback for Judy Garland after a period of personal upheaval — and it was also a way for her then-husband
Sidney Luft to prove himself as a producer. “My darling husband.” “I know your darling husband.” Film critic Karina Longworth argues that the 1976 movie was likewise intended
to present Streisand in a new light and to give her then-boyfriend Jon Peters
more credibility as a producer. “The 1976 version was designed as
an image-makeover vehicle for Streisand, through which she could prove
that she was hip to a culture that had changed, while she was making mostly
old-fashioned musical movies.” A big draw of the new A Star is Born is that it’s Lady Gaga’s first
major film acting role and Cooper’s directorial debut. We also get to hear Cooper sing, “Maybe it’s time to let
the old ways die.” just as in the 1976 movie people were
intrigued to see Kris Kristofferson act, “Where to?” “Back about 10 years.” since he was more well-known
as a singer. So part of the allure of this movie
has always been exploring the way that stardom operates
both within the story and through the film
as a vehicle for its players. “It’s all yours, baby! Everything you want. Your own personal piece
of the American dream.” At the same time, the real-life sagas
surrounding A Star is Born have sometimes proved the movie’s
darker message about the transitory nature of fame. The ’37 film’s star Janet Gaynor
would only do a few more movies after this one before she chose to retire. And despite the hoopla
about Judy Garland’s comeback, she aligned more with the fading male star
than with the rising ingenue at this stage of her life. Her unstable behavior, drug dependency
and illness caused production delays, and this was actually
one of her last major roles — she would die of a barbiturate overdose
in her forties. “You don’t know what it’s like
to watch somebody you love… just crumble away bit by bit…
and day by day in front of your eyes.” A Star is Born presents
an intriguing portrait of what love is, especially for creative types — the foundation of this romance is
two people’s mutual need to express themselves artistically “I somehow feel most alive
when I’m singing.” The male lead is drawn to
the female character because he recognizes
her talent and creative spark, and the woman is drawn to him
because he sees this in her. “He gave me a look at myself
I’ve never had before. He saw something in me
nobody else ever did. And he made me see it, too.” At one point in the ’76 movie,
Streisand’s character plays a tune on the piano that she doesn’t think
could ever be a song. “Make a hell of a song.” “I can’t imagine that. It goes so high,
nobody could ever sing it.” But then Kris Kristofferson’s character
makes up a song to that tune. “Time… has come again.” So the symbolism is that this love is
about facilitating each other’s self-expression — together they can create something
beautiful that they can’t apart, but there’s also the sense that for artists,
romance must always come second to the need to make art. “Norman, you make this sound like,
like the end of something, instead of the beginning. You make it sound like g-goodbye.” “I did all I could for you. You’ve come along the road with me
as far as you should.” And there’s a lesson in the movie
that love isn’t everything – it can’t fix a deep personal unhappiness
or emotional void. “Love isn’t enough. I-I thought it was. I thought I was the answer for Norman…
but love isn’t enough for him.” “I love you, Johnny. But it’s not enough, is it?” As her career takes off while his falters,
he doesn’t know how to deal, and some interesting
gender dynamics can result — he might feel emasculated “You can live off your wife now!” and not be able to take being reduced to
just a husband or a secretary. “No, Miss Lester isn’t home as of yet. No, I’m not the butler.” Or he might disagree with the direction
her career is going in. He makes a drunken scene at an awards show
where the woman is being honored. But even as the man screws up royally,
the story still suggests that he’s redeemed by
the initial good thing he did — believing in the female character
and helping her get her big break. “What makes you so sure about me? “I heard you sing.” “Yeah, but that-” “I know, just my word. But you know yourself, don’t you? You just needed somebody to tell you.” Significantly, while he does get her
that chance in Hollywood, the truly important thing he gives her is
the courage to dream a bigger dream for herself. “You’re better than that. You’re better than you know. Don’t settle for the little dream. Go on to the big one.” There’s even a father-daughter dynamic
between the couple in the way that her talent seems to represent
an extension of his legacy, and in how selflessly
he devotes himself to her career. “Look, forget the camera. It’s the Downbeat Club
at 3:00 in the morning, and you’re singing for yourself.” In the ’54 version,
after Norman hears Vicki say she’ll stop working
to take care of him, “I can’t do any more pictures.” he drowns himself
so this won’t happen. So Norman essentially becomes a martyr. Later Vicki’s friend says this: “His love for you and your success. That was the one thing in his life
that wasn’t a waste. And he knew it. Maybe he was wrong to do
what he did, I don’t know. But he didn’t want to destroy that,
destroy the only thing he took pride in.” In the ‘37, ‘54,
and ‘76 movies, in the final scene
after her husband has died, the female character uses
some form of the man’s last name. “This is Mrs. Norman Maine.” “This is… Mrs. Norman Maine.” “Ladies and gentlemen… Esther Hoffman Howard.” So this is a tribute to the fact
that his faith in this woman’s talent was an incredible gift
that made everything possible for her. “For a chance at being something…
something bigger than I ever dreamed of. And I’m not gonna
turn back now.” “The show must go on. That is the performer’s first commandment. But Mason’s Norman Maine
couldn’t take it anymore.” A Star is Born gives us
a pretty clear-eyed look at what fame really entails — we get to see the spectacle of it
and the loneliness of it. “The thing about fame
that I find fascinating is the sonic element of it
and that’s what we have in the movie — you know, it’s very much like: [MAKES NOISE] [SILENCE] [MAKES NOISE] [SILENCE] there’s tons of noise,
and then all of a sudden you’re alone.” The movie makes it clear that fame isn’t an answer
or a cure for what’s wrong in our lives. “They love my music. They think I got all the answers.” “You mean, you don’t?” “I don’t even understand the questions.” “There isn’t a man here
that’s had the advantages you’ve had. And look what you’ve done with them.” Fame and love are not enough
to overcome this man’s addiction which stems from a deep underlying
unhappiness that he’s not faced. “What is it that makes him
want to destroy himself?” We see this from the beginning
of the 54 version in the scene where Norman Maine breaks these mirrors, which tells us he’s on a path
to destroying himself and his image. “I destroy everything I touch. I always have.” But for many years, the Hollywood machine masks,
covers up and enables his problem, rather than forcing him
to address it. “Twenty years of steady and quiet drinking
do something to a man.” And when he’s at his lowest point,
the business just moves on. “I need a job! It’s simple as that. I need a job,
that’s all.” “This was not a musical comedy. This was a musical drama
about the sad ironies of show business.” So most of all,
the story’s message about fame is that it’s fickle
and ephemeral. The two main characters embody that never-ending cycle of one star rising
while another flames out. This impermanence is the tragedy
at the center of A Star is Born. “How I hate to run into these has-beens. They give me the creeps.” “Me too.” “He was good while he had it. And he had it quite a while.” A person’s great accomplishments can
suddenly be meaningless. But the positive side of this is that it’s always a new up-and-comer’s
turn to get their chance. “You know what your chances are? One in a hundred thousand.” “But maybe… I’m that one.” More than 80 years
after the first film, A Star is Born keeps returning
into our shared consciousness because so little about show business
truly changes – the romance of stardom
never goes out of style – and the cycle of fame
keeps on spinning. “The wheel goes round and round,
and if you just wait long enough, it’s finally your turn.” This is Zak Mulligan. Zak is an award-winning
cinematographer whose new movie “We the Animals”
premiered at Sundance this year, and he teaches a class on cinematography basics
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100 Comments

  1. The Take Author

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    Reply
  2. Kev E on Author

    She honestly didn’t deserve that Golden Globe she ruined the American Horror Story Resume smh
    I watched and was underwhelmed, they gave it to her for shock value and fashion only, not bare talent.
    Not kool
    Also this new version is just a new version of the old one.

    Reply
  3. GehenDieLeute Author

    Wow, and she didn't even get a nose job! Luckily a manly man was able to make her a success anyways!

    If I see any more of these saintly men save the "ugly duckling" stuff I'm gonna puke. This video could have used more of a critical viewpoint. Especially regarding the very exploitative nature of this woman-needs-a-man narrative. Yes, so very timeless.

    Reply
  4. jmchez Author

    They made a version in the 1930's, 1950's, 1970's 2010's. So, every generation, except for the 90's. Wonder why. Maybe, it was for the best, as Madonna can't act her way out of a paper bag.

    Reply
  5. Julia Mimi Author

    Yeah, you captured exactly why Coopers and Gagas promotional campaign is so exhausting. They are so overly earnest in how they are trying to associate the movies theme to their own relationship. It ends up feeling insincere and cynical.

    Reply
  6. Lola Arcana Author

    I always thought being attracted to this story is part of being in the Hollywood bubble. I avoid this kind of film because it seems a bit pretentious for my liking.

    Reply
  7. K Noelle Author

    Poor Judy Garland. Hollywood producers/executives/managers ruined her life, criticized her weight and put her on medication. Such a sad story. 🙁

    Reply
  8. Maria Francisca Fuentes Author

    I think remakes aren't harmful as people think but every single one of them must bring something refreshing to the screen or they just look like copycats

    Reply
  9. mightytaiger Author

    She is not insecure, she is honest with herself. Her nose is big and she is rather ugly and obnoxious. She should try being honest with the public for once and stop with the fake and fairly debunked narrative of the struggling waitress who achieved fame. She went to the same school as Paris Hilton for fuck's sake. She's a fucking phony.

    Reply
  10. Syrus Angi Author

    So although the movie has been remade a lot, the story still expresses a realistic side of fame, showbiz and it's relationship among the characters that can be adapted to any time no matter how old it gets so far the passion and determination is there. Or Hollywood is just being lazy again( Just kidding)

    Reply
  11. Matthew 1926 Author

    They keep re-making it. Because every generation likes a version of its own. That is about cost of a dream vs. love , watch out " La La Land ". Of course , if you are like me , why can't the lovers have both ?

    Reply
  12. LightShadowButterfly Author

    I, for one, am not upset at the remakes. It captures more audiences. I have seen, I think, the two first ones, and I can say that the story is very emotionally stimulating. It is very upsetting, but I think people need to see it. However, I don't think many people would pay it any attention if it weren't remade. Some people like remakes because they don't know that there is an original or refuse to watch it because the production value is not up to their standards, at least with videos like this, maybe some people will even recognize it as a remake. I guarantee you many people will think this is an original film, just as they do with covers of songs. Am I upset that people don't recognize some songs and movies as remakes? Yes, yes I am. However, at least people get to read the lyrics or watch the movies and feel a similar emotion to those that other people felt when they saw the original. Crappy reboot that doesn't have the same emotions or commentary? Trash it. Remake that evokes even the slightest bit of emotion as the original? Totally okay. It would be a problem if it were the same story like every 5 years, but the last one of these was in the 70s.

    Reply
  13. nelliebly Author

    The Judy Garland version was delayed because Warner Brothers decided that after much of the movie had been filmed, it had to be scraped in order to do it over in CinemaScope.
    The movie was well liked by audiences, and with much critical acclaim. However Jack Warner didn't like the running time, being 3 hours, and cut it so it would have more showings in a theater per day. And that killed it. But you can now see the restored version.
    When Grace Kelly got the Academy Award for best actress instead of Judy, Groucho Marx called it, "The biggest robbery sine Brink's."

    I'm torn with this new movie. Part of me doesn't want it to do better than the 1954 version. Because Judy and the movie itself, got robbed. The other part of me wants it to get an Academy Award so they will finally stop making this movie again.
    The 1937 version was fine. It holds up. The Devil is in it's details. The 1954 version I can understand, it's practically Judy's life story. She lived every moment. She could have written the script. The 1976 version is so bad it's painful to watch. Its just one big mess. I'll have to see this new version at some point to compare. I do like Lady Gaga. I would be more enthusiastic about it if, the woman played the heavy this time. That would be interesting, at least something new. Something the other versions either didn't consider or were to scared to attempt.

    Reply
  14. Helgali Author

    Gaga has said (in Colbert?) her washed out face isn't her "real" face, that it is a mask still. That her makeup and style is more "her" than her real face.

    Reply
  15. veronicajade20 Author

    You need to ask why Hollywood keeps making the same exact stories over again and again. It’s propaganda. There are other authors out here besides Jane Austen. 🙄

    Reply
  16. Ronnie J Dio Author

    It keeps being remade because it is a feminist utopian fantasy where the rise of the female can only happen with the ritual suicide by the older alpha male

    Reply
  17. Rosalyn Josephine Burgess Author

    I actually think this movie should be remade every twenty years because at the core of the story it’s still the same. Woman are still judge for the way they look, the way the act, and what they sing and men still hide away their feelings and sometimes that leads to depression and in other cases drugs and drinking leading to a path of suicidal thoughts. It is a story that needs to be told and I like the fact that it is updated to go with the times. Yes the story changes but the core is the same and that is the important part. That is the part that needs to be told over and over again because it might help one person and sometimes that is enough.

    Reply
  18. Fatma Atma Author

    It was remade in Bollywood and was a superhit there too. Its cheesy and people like sappy cheesy romances where lead women thinks she can fix a broken man. Lol. Its an old trope duhhh…

    Reply
  19. William Craig Author

    If you're going to do a remake, it should at least feel like a totally different movie, which the new version does, at least until the last act.

    Reply
  20. araneus1 Author

    There is an even earlier version — WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD 1932. Not easy to find, but it is very good and as has happened with this video, it gets overlooked.

    Reply
  21. Patrick Welch Author

    What does it take to ENTERTAIN at the time of production? This written in early December. I will probably watch both The Bishop's wife and The Preacher"s Wife. Just as many actors want to try their skills as Hamlet and Scrooge, many producers, directors and screenwriters would like their shot at very good [maybe not absolute great cinema, Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane] films with stories that can updated in different aspects, time, location character emphasis etc. How many good guy-bad guy westerns can adapted to big city cops & robbers films and vice-versa? Throw in a femme fatale, some suspense, night shadows and it's film-noir. I'm the consumer. I want to be entertained first!

    Reply
  22. Ceecee M Author

    Saw the 1st version and his “great love gesture” is pretty problematic….a lot of the story is problematic actually. I loved Fred March’s acting though. Hollywood loves stories about itself, doesnt matter if it’s made well or not

    Reply
  23. Shareese Lee Author

    I’m probably the only person who couldn’t get into the new movie. It just felt like they fell in love so quickly. And I know ppl who drinks too much and that moment when Bradley cooper falls off the couch and she says he does that all the time, I’m like and that’s normal? I just couldn’t get into it.

    Reply
  24. diadsalies Author

    I normally love your content, but that 'spoilers for these versions but not that version' is total bullshit and you know it. You know you only put that little super-specific disclaimer because you didn't want to scare away clicks from people who haven't watched the movie yet. You know that's not an honest and considerate spoiler warning made with the sincere best intentions for the audience in mind. Have to downvote for that.

    Reply
  25. ferociousgumby Author

    Why are YouTube videos now CRAMMED with ads? I have AdBlocker, and I cannot WAIT until they come up with one for YouTube. I don't care about these products, and I never will care about these products.

    Reply
  26. Anthony Passaro Author

    They mentioned Karina Longworth. I just want to say I’m a big fan of her podcast “You must remember this” and anyone interested in old Hollywood has to check it out! It’s wonderful.

    Reply
  27. Hallows4 Author

    Never seen any version, but I love the idea behind this video. Think you could do something similar for other oft-repeated franchises: King Kong? Wizard of Oz? Romeo and Juliet?

    Reply
  28. Suçons Author

    This is the first remake that improved the original idea and is the best version. Who would’ve thought that could happen. Good job on this one holly wood

    Reply
  29. Jen 33 Author

    The next one should switch genders. Let the guy to be the ingenue and the woman be the fading star. WAIT, there’s already one, Sunset Blvd, even though the meat on the skeleton isn’t really the same.

    Reply
  30. Jaqueline Sant'ana Author

    It amazes me that this tale of lack of confidence and open insecurity in creative people trying to suceed in showbiz still has some appel to audiences and critique. Guess people focus on the romantic aspects of it, and so in the way they sell the production.

    Reply

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