Oct 26, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
It all started in 1932, with a film called What Price Hollywood? In this initial take on the plot, the ingenue is an aspiring actress who is a waitress at the Brown Derby where she meets a director. He sets up a screen test. Soon her fortune ascends as quickly as the alcoholic director’s fortune descends. The lead, Constance Bennett, received an Oscar for her portrayal. The reviews all indicate that this feature was “pre-code”, the Hays Code that was instituted in 1930 that imposed strict censorship. The movie is so old, 86 years, it is amazing that it is available not only on DVD but Blu-Ray as well.
In 1937, David O. Selznick took the basic story and added technicolor and a nice score. The young girl this time is played by Janet Gaynor opposite Frederic March. His character is a big star. In this piece, he not only mentors but marries the talented newcomer, however, when she wins an Oscar he is regarded as a has-been. She wants to put her career on hold to help him, but he cannot handle the pity and takes the final step. DVD
The 1954, version starred Judy Garland and James Mason. Again, it is a superstar taking a fledgling actress under his wing only to see her charisma glow brightly while his is slowly extinguished. This adaptation is enhanced with the addition of songs. Who can ever forget the beautiful, poignant “The Man Who Got Away” warbled so ineffably by Judy. DVD
It’s 1976, and here we go again. This time Barbra Streisand is the talented beginner and Kris Kristofferson is the one wallowing in the ash of his former greatness. They meet and coalesce. The venue is changed from Hollywood and movie making to the contemporary music scene injecting some vital energy into the old plan. It’s Barbara’s picture all the way. She is the executive producer and takes credit for songwriting and wardrobe as well as crooning the memorable “Evergreen”. Because it is the 70’s Kris is hooked on not only alcohol but cocaine too. DVD
The latest 2018, version features Lady Gaga and, in his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper. What sets this old story apart is the dynamite chemistry that exists between the stars. Most people know that Lady Gaga is, in fact, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. But how many know that Cooper, he with the neon blue eyes, is the son of Gloria Campano. These two Italians bonded over spaghetti and it is obvious they have a solid friendship and mutual respect. The film is more like an operetta. It is not a musical as the songs are integral, but the music becomes a dominant feature. Through the years there have been various proposals in which Jennifer Lopez, Beyoncé, and Will Smith have been attached. Also, a role reversal has been suggested in which the women is the big name who gives a struggling guy a break. Any plot line that has gone through five reincarnations and is still viable is touching something primal in the human psyche. This latest version will probably not be the last.
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