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|A Star Is Born|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Pierson|
|Produced by||Jon Peters|
|Screenplay by||Frank Pierson|
John Gregory Dunne
|Based on||A Star Is Born |
by William A. Wellman
|Music by||Roger Kellaway|
|Edited by||Peter Zinner|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures|
|Box office||$80 million|
A Star Is Born is a 1976 American musical romantic drama film about a young singer (Barbra Streisand) who meets and falls in love with an established rock and roll star (Kris Kristofferson), only to find her career ascending while his goes into decline.
The film is a remake of the 1937 original drama starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, which had also been adapted in 1954 as a musical starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The story was subsequently adapted in 2018 starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
John Norman Howard, a famous and self-destructive singer/songwriter rock star, arrives late for a concert. He is drunk, sings a couple of songs, and walks off stage. John's entourage, including his manager Brian, takes him to a bar where Esther Hoffman is singing. One of John's fans find him there and starts a fight. Esther grabs John and helps him escape out a back door.
They go to Esther's, but she invites him to come back for breakfast. Over breakfast, she agrees to go to a concert with him. After arriving by helicopter, John rides a motorbike around the stage, snags a cable and crashes off the front of the stage. John is taken away by ambulance and his entourage leave in the helicopter forgetting Esther.
Afterwards, John is resting at home by his pool. A radio DJ, Bebe Jesus, hovers over the pool in a helicopter and invites John to his studio. John gets angry and shoots at the helicopter. Bebe Jesus then threatens to never play John's songs. Later, John goes to the radio station with a case of whiskey to make peace with Bebe Jesus. The disc jockey does not accept John's apology and calls John an alcoholic over the air. Esther happens to be at the radio station at the same time, taping a commercial, John takes Esther to his mansion and writes her name on the wall with a can of spray paint. There, they make love, have a bath together, and he listens to her playing his piano. She thinks no one would be able to sing to the tune she has written, but he makes up some lyrics and starts singing.
At his next concert, John gets Esther on stage to sing. Although the audience boos when she starts to sing, she wins them over. Later, she tells John she wants them to get married. John replies that he's no good for her, but she persists, and they marry. John takes Esther to a plot of land he has out west where they build a simple house. She wants a tour co-starring with him, but he thinks she should do the tour on her own. Esther's career takes off, eclipsing his.
John returns to the studio thinking of restarting his career. His band tells him they have gone on without him. At home alone, John begins to write a new song. As he records it, he is interrupted by the phone. Someone asks for Esther and wants to know whether he is her secretary.
At the Grammy Awards, Esther wins for best female performance. While she is giving her acceptance speech, John arrives drunk and makes a scene. Later, Esther tries to talk Brian into giving John a last chance. John is writing songs again but in a different way. Brian calls on John and likes the new songs, but suggests John release some of his old hits along with the new songs. However, John wants to go with the new work only, so he turns down the offer.
Back at his LA mansion, John finds Quentin, a magazine writer, swimming half-naked in his swimming pool. She says she would do anything to get an exclusive interview with Esther. When Esther arrives soon after, she finds them in bed together. Quentin tries to interview Esther, but John tells Quentin to get out. Esther and John end up going back to their small home out west where they have been happiest. One morning, John drives to the airport to get Brian. He puts on some of Esther's songs, drives recklessly, and is killed in an accident. Afterwards, back at the LA mansion, Esther hears John's voice calling out for someone to answer the phone. But she discovers it's just a tape of the old songwriting session during which the phone had interrupted his singing.
At Esther's next concert, the audience raises candles as tribute to her lost husband. She sings one of John's songs but begins it as a ballad and ends it as a rock song.
Directed by Frank Pierson, the film updates the original story and screenplay of William A. Wellman and Robert Carson with additional contributions by Pierson, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion. It also features Gary Busey and Sally Kirkland. Venetta Fields and Clydie King perform as Streisand's backing vocalists "The Oreos". Kristofferson's then-wife Rita Coolidge and Tony Orlando appear briefly as themselves.
The earlier films had portrayed the behind-the-scenes world of Hollywood filmmaking. However, this version adapted the story to the music business. For example, the 1937 and 1954 films each portrayed the lead female character winning an Academy Award, while the 1976 and 2018 versions depicted the heroine winning a Grammy Award instead.
A Star Is Born was co-produced by Streisand and her then-partner Jon Peters for Barwood Films and Warner Brothers, with Peters as the main producer and Streisand as executive. Among actors considered for the male lead were Neil Diamond and Marlon Brando. Streisand and Peters wanted Elvis Presley for the role: they met with Elvis and discussed the film, and he was interested in taking the part, thinking it would revive his film career. Elvis' manager, Colonel Tom Parker, insisted Elvis have top billing and asked for a substantial sum of money for the role, even though he had not had an acting role since 1969, and people were unsure what kind of box office draw he would be. This effectively ended Elvis's involvement with the project. Parker also did not want to have Elvis portrayed as having a show business career in decline because this was far from the truth, with Elvis playing to packed auditoriums wherever he toured in the States. Diamond, who knew Streisand and had attended high school with her at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, was also seriously considered but had to decline due to his extensive concert commitments, and Kristofferson got the part of John Norman Howard.
Kristofferson denied modelling his character on Jim Morrison: "That's a good idea but it's not true. I don't think I ever met Morrison. A lot of people said we looked alike – shirts off, beards – but that washed-up rock star was more about me."
The film cost around $6 million to produce. Its soundtrack album was also an international success, reaching number 1 in many countries and selling nearly 15 million copies worldwide. It featured the ballad "Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)", which became one of the biggest hits of Streisand's career, spending three weeks at number one in the United States, and peaking at number three in the United Kingdom.
The clothing of Streisand's character's (Esther Hoffman Howard) was from Streisand's own closet. The actual credit reads: "Miss Streisand's clothes from... her closet".
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 38% based on 24 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100 based on 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Roger Ebert gave the film two and a half stars out of four, writing in his review, "There is, to begin with, no denying Barbra Streisand's enormous talent. At the end of 'A Star Is Born' the camera stays on her for one unbroken shot of seven or eight minutes, and she sings her heart out, and we concede that she's one of the great stars of the movies, one of the elemental presences...I thought Miss Streisand was distractingly miscast in the role, and yet I forgave her everything when she sang." Gene Siskel also gave the film two and a half stars, calling it "a lumbering love story made palatable by Streisand's superb singing." Variety was positive, calling Streisand's performance "her finest screen work to date, while Kris Kristofferson's portrayal of her failing benefactor realizes all the promise first shown five years ago in 'Cisco Pike.' Jon Peters' production is outstanding, and Frank Pierson's direction is brilliant." Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a transistorized remake, louder than ever, but very small in terms of its being about anything whatsoever." He also noted that Kristofferson "walks through the film looking very bored." Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The treatment of Streisand is so ceaselessly close up and reverential from the start that there really seems nowhere to go but further up, and little of the mutuality of need that is essential to a love, or a love story ... A half-hour in, I wrote 'a star is boring' in my notes, and was not later persuaded I'd been wrong." Gary Arnold of The Washington Post suggested that the film "should be retitled 'A Star is Embalmed" or "A Star is Entombed' or simply 'A Star is Lost' .... One loses sight of the ostensible dramatic tragedy, because the real tragedy appears to be Streisand's misuse of her talent." Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin faulted the film for "Streisand's failure to convince as a rock star, even when singing the docile brand of rock supplied here. Luckily, Kris Kristofferson makes a far better impression. His eyes have the proper faraway look that betokens a mind besotted either with booze or love, and he drifts toward his destiny with none of James Mason's fireworks but with a great deal of quiet charm."
Paul Mavis, reviewing Warner's 2006 disc release of A Star is Born for DVD Talk, wrote, "There is something of value in A Star is Born – one thing – and that's Kris Kristofferson's amazingly adept, heartfelt performance as the doomed rock star, self-destructing despite the love of an up-and-coming singer (Streisand). There's not a wrong note in his performance. Unfortunately, the remainder of A Star is Born is an unmitigated disaster that has the megalomaniac fingerprints of Barbra Streisand and her hairdresser/producer boyfriend, Jon Peters, all over it."
The film won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Evergreen" with the award shared by its songwriters, Streisand and Paul Williams, and was also nominated in the categories of Best Cinematography (Robert Surtees), Best Sound (Robert Knudson, Dan Wallin, Robert Glass and Tom Overton) and Original Song Score (Roger Kellaway).
It won five Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Streisand), Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Kristofferson), Best Original Score (Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher) and Best Original Song, (Streisand and Williams for "Evergreen"). The film's music score and theme song also won ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards for Most Performed Feature Film Standards and nominated BAFTA Awards for Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music and Best Sound Track, Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score written for a Motion Picture or Television Special
In the two previous versions, Gaynor and Garland were each depicted on screen as winning an Oscar, yet neither won for their film in real life (though Gaynor and Streisand had won Oscars before, and Garland had won a Juvenile Oscar). In this film, Streisand is instead depicted as winning a Grammy, and, in real life, the film's song "Evergreen" won her both a Grammy (for Song of the Year) and an Oscar.
According to at least one Streisand biography[vague], unhappy with a few of Frank Pierson's scenes, Streisand later directed them herself (a claim also made for 1979's The Main Event), adding to the rumors that she and Pierson clashed constantly during production.
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
A Star Is Born was the second remake of the original 1937 drama, the prior being the 1954 musical starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The story was also adapted as the 2013 Bollywood film Aashiqui 2. Bradley Cooper later starred, directed, and co-produced a 2018 retelling, with Lady Gaga co-starring and composing new music for the film.
In 2006, the Region 1 DVD was released in North America in Dolby Digital 5.1 sound with extras including a full-length commentary by Barbra Streisand, 16 minutes of never before seen and additional footage and the original wardrobe test. In 2007 the Region 2 DVD with the same extras was released in Germany. In 2008 the Region 4 DVD was released in Australia, the content of which appears to be the same as the Region 1 edition. The DVD has yet to be released in any other region.
Warner Bros. released the film worldwide on the Blu-ray format on February 6, 2013.
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