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While we wait for A few words about…™ A Star is Born (2018) — in 4k UHD Blu-ray

4 Stars

I was at a screening yesterday of the new Star is Born, and overheard an excited cinephile explaining to a friend, that this is not only a re-make, but the fourth version of the film – after the 1937 Technicolor Selznick, which went to WB, allowing for the 1954 and 1976.

While I thought “not so fast there…,” I remained silent.

But for those who revel in such things, pleased be aware that the newest variant, is actually the third re-make.

While my personal favorite remains George Cukor’s 1954 classic, there was an earlier version, that hit theaters a dozen years before.

It was an RKO production by a less experienced, but still wonderful director, who would go on to helm Little Women (1933), Dinner at Eight (1933), and Camille (1936).

What Price Hollywood featured Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman as actors with careers going into different directions. It was photographed by the great Charles Rosher.

At a compact 88 minutes, it has been quietly available via Warner Archive, and should be essential screening for anyone heading to a theater to see the newest incarnation starring Lady and Brad.

Published by

Robert Harris

editor,member

55 Comments

  1. Of course, the second Selznick. That’s what you get for posting quickly.

    Brain had calculated five films total, fingers went for four.

    The original came from the same RKO Selznick era, that gave us that big ape picture.

  2. Yes. All week I have been saying this is the 5th version. When I explain about What Price Hollywood I get two responses.

    1. Well is not the same name so it doesn’t count.

    2. Do you have a copy? I want to see it.

    I respond, yes I have a copy. Movie night next week.

    Teaching the millennials one at a time.

  3. Saw the 2018 A Star Is Born today and loved it. It moves into the second slot behind the 1954 film (still the definitive ASIB) and before the 1937, 1932 and 1976 (which I detested) versions. Liked all of them on some level except as noted the heinous 1976 version (and I'm a huge Streisand fan).

  4. Thanks for the review, heading to see it as soon as I can. Three plays already scheduled for this weekend.

    A note about ASIB 1976: I didn't like it much in original release, possibly in part because I couldn't get to a 70mm showing, but the Blu-ray issued a few years ago sold me on its value. No, not better than the 1954 version–one of my favorite films of all time–but an acceptable remake. It also appears that the 1976 version provides much of the framework for the new 2018 version.

    Take a look at the 1976 version on Blu-ray if you can.

  5. Thomas T

    Will the acting improve? The script get any better or forgettable songs more listenable? I saw it in 70 millimeter in 1976!

    Script is awful. Direction is pedestrian. Streisand is excellent, but Kristofferson is terrible. As is most of the supporting cast. Many scenes don’t work and don’t feel natural. But one is as good as anything in any version: the scene where Esther is taken out to John’s body at the wreck site is very moving and beautifully played by Streisand.

    But the score is terrific; much more than just “Evergreen.”

  6. john a hunter

    Wasn't the 1976 version one of the first if not the first to use Dolby NR with 70 prints?
    I saw it in 70 and hated it, save as Robert mentions, that song.

    Yeah it was the second one. Logan's Run beat it out by several months. Neither of those films had LFE though. That wasn't introduced until Star Wars and CE3k the following year.

    Lisztomania was the first Dolby Stereo movie in general.

  7. I stand to be corrected but with all the references to the 1976 A Star Is Born in 70 millimeter, it wasn't actually filmed in 70 millimeter but filmed in the 1.85 aspect ratio and blown up to 70 millimeter for first run engagements in major cities.

  8. I only saw the 1976 version once and don't remember thinking a whole lot of it. I absolutely LOVE the 2018 version. I think it has a strong chance to take home the Best Picture Oscar. And Gaga is almost certain to get nominated for Best Actress. Ditto for Cooper for Best Actor and Best Director.

    I've never seen the 1937 or 1954 versions. Not sure I want to after enjoying the 2018 one so much.

    Mark

  9. Mark Booth

    I only saw the 1976 version once and don't remember thinking a whole lot of it. I absolutely LOVE the 2018 version. I think it has a strong chance to take home the Best Picture Oscar. And Gaga is almost certain to get nominated for Best Actress. Ditto for Cooper for Best Actor and Best Director.

    I've never seen the 1937 or 1954 versions. Not sure I want to after enjoying the 2018 one so much.

    Mark

    You can enjoy all three films as each film is well worth one viewing. As to the 1976 version, it has its fans, but I'm not one of them.

  10. I haven't seen the new version (yet) but I would guess that the 1954 version (and any of the ones earlier than that) are going to be different enough to enjoy as they're own thing just by virtue of those being Hollywood tales rather than rock star tales.

  11. Josh Steinberg

    I haven't seen the new version (yet) but I would guess that the 1954 version (and any of the ones earlier than that) are going to be different enough to enjoy as they're own thing just by virtue of those being Hollywood tales rather than rock star tales.

    Cooper made sure to salute the prior films with certain sequences. I won't discuss until you see it.

  12. Robert Crawford

    Cooper made sure to salute the prior films with certain sequences. I won't discuss until you see it.

    I'll keep an eye out, but that makes me even more excited to see it than I already was. Just trying to find a time that works for both my wife and I to go, and it's turned out to be a slightly busier week than expected. I was hoping to see it in Dolby Cinema but realizing that by the time we get to it, might have to make due with just a regular theater. Either way, this new version is at the top of our joint list of things to go see.

  13. Saw ASIB yesterday at DC's Uptown Theatre, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I would place it in second place behind the Janet Gaynor version. The Garland version is a close third, only because it is too long. I remember going to the premiere of the restored Garland version at the same theatre and my immediate reaction was that Warner Bros. was right in editing it. (I know, heresy!) I did not care for the Streisand version.

  14. Robert Crawford

    Josh,

    Do you have Filmstruck?

    I don't. I have the older AppleTV which does not allow you to add apps – it only shows the ones that Apple pushes through – and Filmstruck isn't one of the options on there. At some point I'll upgrade to one of the newer ones and then I'll check it out. But I do own the Garland one on DVD, always meant to upgrade to BD, just never got around to it. I probably should wait now in case Warner decides to do a deluxe version of the new version with the older version(s) included.

  15. RichMurphy

    Saw ASIB yesterday at DC's Uptown Theatre, and enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I would place it in second place behind the Janet Gaynor version. The Garland version is a close third, only because it is too long. I remember going to the premiere of the restored Garland version at the same theatre and my immediate reaction was that Warner Bros. was right in editing it. (I know, heresy!) I did not care for the Streisand version.

    Even greater potential heresy: the Garland version would be much better if it trimmed/lost most of its musical scenes.

    Most are irrelevant and seem to exist just because audiences wanted to hear Judy sing. They don't advance the plot and they really make the movie drag…

  16. Colin Jacobson

    Even greater potential heresy: the Garland version would be much better if it trimmed/lost most of its musical scenes.

    Most are irrelevant and seem to exist just because audiences wanted to hear Judy sing. They don't advance the plot and they really make the movie drag…

    I could not disagree more. Every one of the numbers has been woven into the fabric of the film with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it's a "meet cute," a number to demonstrate why Norman has faith in Esther's talent, the very lengthy "Born in a Trunk" to display her versatility to demonstrate why Esther became a big star so fast (and if An American in Paris can have its eighteen-minute ballet, Judy should certainly be allowed her own showcase), the proposal caught over the recording mics, and supremely to juxtipose ironically Vicki's movie character's carefree personality with Esther's tortured soul dealing with her husband's deterioration while she "smiles through tears." "It's a New World" might be the only one I might think could have been cut though it's the most delicate and soulful of the film's six numbers.

  17. Josh Steinberg

    I don't. I have the older AppleTV which does not allow you to add apps – it only shows the ones that Apple pushes through – and Filmstruck isn't one of the options on there. At some point I'll upgrade to one of the newer ones and then I'll check it out. But I do own the Garland one on DVD, always meant to upgrade to BD, just never got around to it. I probably should wait now in case Warner decides to do a deluxe version of the new version with the older version(s) included.

    The reason why I mentioned Filmstuck is that there is a 19 minute interview with Bradley Cooper that you would enjoy as he talks about the film and the nods he gives to the prior versions as well as Judy Garland.

  18. Colin Jacobson

    Even greater potential heresy: the Garland version would be much better if it trimmed/lost most of its musical scenes.

    Most are irrelevant and seem to exist just because audiences wanted to hear Judy sing. They don't advance the plot and they really make the movie drag…

    I'm not sure about that, but one of the things why I like this current version so much is because Cooper stated that each song tries to tell a story. If you pay close attention to the lyrics, each song talks about where Jack, Ally or the both of them are at emotionally in the movie and their relationship.

  19. Matt Hough

    I could not disagree more. Every one of the numbers has been woven into the fabric of the film with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it's a "meet cute," a number to demonstrate why Norman has faith in Esther's talent, the very lengthy "Born in a Trunk" to display her versatility to demonstrate why Esther became a big star so fast (and if An American in Paris can have its eighteen-minute ballet, Judy should certainly be allowed her own showcase), the proposal caught over the recording mics, and supremely to juxtipose ironically Vicki's movie character's carefree personality with Esther's tortured soul dealing with her husband's deterioration while she "smiles through tears." "It's a New World" might be the only one I might think could have been cut though it's the most delicate and soulful of the film's six numbers.

    Cut 'em all! No musical numbers! Boo! Hiss! :laugh:

  20. Colin Jacobson

    Cut 'em all! No musical numbers! Boo! Hiss! :laugh:

    I know you are joking, but I was the one that started the "heresy" subthread about the Garland version being too long, and even I wouldn't touch "The Man That Got Away". It's a stunning scene in its own right (at my screening years ago, the near-sellout audience sat in raptured silence and broke out into applause at the end of the song – at a MOVIE!). Plus, it is the "aha" moment in the film where James Mason, and the audience, realizes that this character IS indeed a star.

  21. I had the pleasure of seeing a print many years ago of the restored 1954 version at the Ohio Theater in Columbus. It's a grand old movie palace with the largest screen I've seen outside of (real) IMAX. I had seen it before on VHS, but watching it as it was intended to be seen was a totally different experience. By the end of the "Born in a Trunk" number, the audience was applauding. It's one of my favorite film-going experiences and made me a Judy Garland fan for life.

  22. Thomas T

    Saw the 2018 A Star Is Born today and loved it. It moves into the second slot behind the 1954 film (still the definitive ASIB) and before the 1937, 1932 and 1976 (which I detested) versions. Liked all of them on some level except as noted the heinous 1976 version (and I'm a huge Streisand fan).

    I believe that the 1976 version had the working title of "A Perm is Born".
    But hey, as Robert Crawford noted, it did give us "Evergreen";
    and, as for me, I enjoyed watching the DP work of Robert Surtees.

  23. Of course this version has to be better since Gaga’s voice is built for rock and Streisand’s not at all- never was- and hence she’s not believable as a rock star regardless of script etc. However she must be given credit for changing the premise to rock as she was the one of the film’s producers.

  24. Noel Coward said about the 54 “A Star Is Born:
    ” What has happened to the famous, once famous, American timing sense? In spite of fine acting performances by Judy Garland and James Mason and a lavish, highly-colored production, it dragged interminably. Every song was attenuated to such a length that I thought I was going mad. One in oarticulsr, “Born in a Trunk”, started brilliantly but by the time it was over and we had endured montage after montage and repetition after repetition, I found myself wishing that dear enchanting Judy was at the bottom.of the sea.”
    “The Noel Coward Diaries, edited by Graham Payne, 1982 Little, Brown & Co.”

    i don’t entirely agree, but those complaining about the musical.numbers in the Garland film are in good company. I have seen all the versions, including this 2018 version and remain a faithful proponent of the 37 version being the best. It’s concise, always modern in its cynicism and the performances remain truthful.

  25. Brian Kidd

    I had the pleasure of seeing a print many years ago of the restored 1954 version at the Ohio Theater in Columbus. It's a grand old movie palace with the largest screen I've seen outside of (real) IMAX. I had seen it before on VHS, but watching it as it was intended to be seen was a totally different experience. By the end of the "Born in a Trunk" number, the audience was applauding. It's one of my favorite film-going experiences and made me a Judy Garland fan for life.

    Love the Ohio!

  26. I never understood the following for the Streisand version – and this, also being a huge Streisand fan. But that version is terrible for all of the reasons already mentioned herein. Will always consider the Garland/Mason/Cukor '54 version the definitive A Star is Born. It's a perfect entertainment – exquisite to the last detail. Have a soft spot for the Gaynor/March version too, although it has dated rather badly, particularly Gaynor's bad impressions of top-flight Hollywood celebs of their day.

  27. A BIG BIG fan of the '54 version and paid to go see it when they reissued it with as much of the missing footage as they could find as possible. I enjoyed seeing it, yet wish on the Blu-ray you had the option to play the movie without the added scenes as they make the movie very long and the still photos used in some places do take you out of the action. So, I still have a soft spot for the 154 minute version that was the only one available for years. For me the "Lose That Long Face" number just doesn't particularly work for me, but that, of course, is just my opinion.

  28. Matt Hough

    I could not disagree more. Every one of the numbers has been woven into the fabric of the film with a specific purpose in mind. Whether it's a "meet cute," a number to demonstrate why Norman has faith in Esther's talent, the very lengthy "Born in a Trunk" to display her versatility to demonstrate why Esther became a big star so fast (and if An American in Paris can have its eighteen-minute ballet, Judy should certainly be allowed her own showcase), the proposal caught over the recording mics, and supremely to juxtipose ironically Vicki's movie character's carefree personality with Esther's tortured soul dealing with her husband's deterioration while she "smiles through tears." "It's a New World" might be the only one I might think could have been cut though it's the most delicate and soulful of the film's six numbers.

    Totally agree Matt and totally disagree with Colin. I would say even It's a New World pushes the plot along as that's what Esther sings to Norman on the first night of their honeymoon and Lose That Long Face is especially poignant juxtaposed against the gut-wrenching scene in the dressing room where Esther talks to Oliver about Norman and her crumbling marriage. Somewhere There's a Someone (done in an effort to lift Norman's spirits) is a great parody of the ballet and dream sequences that were so popular in the 1950s. In a way, it's a spoof of Born in a Trunk. Anyway, still looking forward to seeing the latest incarnation with Cooper and Gaga. I'm a fan of both.

  29. noel aguirre

    Of course this version has to be better since Gaga’s voice is built for rock and Streisand’s not at all- never was- and hence she’s not believable as a rock star regardless of script etc. However she must be given credit for changing the premise to rock as she was the one of the film’s producers.

    Streisand didn’t play a rock star in the film. She played a pop star. Far more Carly Simon or Linda Ronstadt than Janis Joplin or Grace Slick.

  30. noel aguirre

    Of course this version has to be better since Gaga’s voice is built for rock and Streisand’s not at all- never was- and hence she’s not believable as a rock star regardless of script etc. However she must be given credit for changing the premise to rock as she was the one of the film’s producers.

    Streisand didn’t play a rock star in the film. She played a pop star. Far more Carly Simon or Linda Ronstadt than Janis Joplin or Grace Slick.

  31. JohnMor

    Streisand didn’t play a rock star in the film. She played a pop star. Far more Carly Simon or Linda Ronstadt than Janis Joplin or Grace Slick.

    Yeah, but the movie tries to convince us she appealed to a rock audience, such as in the scene where she dazzles a rowdy crowd of rock fans…

  32. Mark Mayes

    […]"Born in a Trunk", started brilliantly but by the time it was over and we had endured montage after montage and repetition after repetition, I found myself wishing that dear enchanting Judy was at the bottom of the sea."
    "The Noel Coward Diaries, edited by Graham Payne, 1982 Little, Brown & Co."[…]

    "Mutiny on the Bounty" re-makes are now two behind "A Star is Born";
    so, maybe Hollywood ought to take its cues from Coward & Cooper.
    The next version should be a musical with the mutinous crew singing their uprising number of "Anchors and Cankers" followed by Captain Bligh's singing of "Born in a Sea-Chest"
    I'll get back to you as further ideas develop.;)

  33. PMF

    "Mutiny on the Bounty" re-makes are now two behind "A Star is Born";
    so, maybe Hollywood ought to take its cues from the law firm of Cooper, Cukor & Coward.
    The next version should be a musical, with the mutinous crew singing their uprising number of "Anchors and Cankers";
    followed by Captain Bligh's counter-point lament of "Born in a Sea-Chest".
    Oh, and let's not forget, we're also gonna need a major Tahitian number, as well.
    How about "Bountiful Breadfruits and Brando's"?
    I'll get back to you as further ideas develop.;)

    Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson: all as Mr Christian. That's four versions. I believe the Flynn version is lost (may be wrong).

  34. bujaki

    Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson: all as Mr Christian. That's four versions. I believe the Flynn version is lost (may be wrong).

    And that's why I love Home Theater Forum. Just when I think I've got something down, I find another member setting me straight. On the other hand, I will give myself a Hall Pass on this one; after all, if the Flynn version is lost then naturally I wouldn't have been able to see it.;)
    And now, back to our regularly scheduled program of "A Star is Born".

  35. No – I won't be adding this to my 4K collection. It peaked right when Gaga and Cooper did their first duet and then after the first hour or so the songs stopped coming. I don't see myself watching this more than once, despite the good performances. I only ever watched 12 Years A Slave once too.

  36. I always felt that "New York, New York" was sort of a variation to George Cukor's "A Star is Born".
    Both Judy and Liza have their epic numbers of "Born in a Trunk" and "Happy Endings".
    And both films involve a show-biz marriage that falls apart, due to the rise of one and descent of the other.
    Does anyone know if there was a possible a tip of the hat from Scorsese to Cukor in any manner, shape or form?

  37. m

    PMF

    I always felt that "New York, New York" was sort of a variation to George Cukor's "A Star is Born".
    Both Judy and Liza have their epic numbers of "Born in a Trunk" and "Happy Endings".
    And both films involve a show-biz marriage that falls apart, due to the rise of one and descent of the other.
    Does anyone know if there was a possible a tip of the hat from Scorsese to Cukor in any manner, shape or form?

    I’m sure there was probably some of that. But he said he took his inspiration from several sources, notably Doris Day’s marriage to saxophonist George Weidler in the 1940’s which ended because he saw her star rising and said he didn’t want to be “Mr. Doris Day.” Scorsese also said he looked hard at Day’s early Warner Bros. Michael Curtiz musical My Dream is Yours, which is a slight fictionalization of Day’s career story to that time. He said he also looked at MDIY in terms of its production design.

  38. What Price Hollywood? is definitely the original prototype! Long ago revival film houses in the DC area (before AFI) did a great job of educating audiences in film history and would show all 3 (before Streisand’s). My question is will there ever be any more footage to complete the 1954 restoration?

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