A Star is Born

Starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March
Written by William Wellman, Dorothy Parker, Robert Carson and Alan Campbell
Directed by William Wellman
USA 1937
110 mins

This week saw the release of the fourth film adaptation of 'A Star Is Born'. The two leads are Bradley Cooper (who co-wrote and directed this critically acclaimed new version) and Lady Gaga who has been much praised in her first dramatic role. They play the fading singer and the rising music star in what has become one of Hollywood's most enduring showbiz tales. 'A Star Is Born' was famously made in the 1950s with Judy Garland and James Mason and in the 1970s with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristoffersson. However it is the rarely-seen classic 1937 production of the melodrama that we will be screening.

The film's director William A. Wellman was one of the most prolific and successful directors of his era - his career straddled silent pictures and talkies and his work included adventure movies, war films, westerns and love stories. He was nominated for the best director Oscar three times but won it just once for 'A Star Is Born'. His silent production of 'Wings' won the very first Academy Award for best film awarded in 1929.

Janet Gaynor and Frederic March play the ingenue Vicky Lester and the troubled screen icon Norman Maine whose rising and falling trajectories cross during the golden age of Hollywood in the 1930s. Their performances are excellent with great work from a fine supporting cast. 'A Star Is Born' was filmed in an early 'three-strip' version of Technicolor giving us a gorgeously-hued vision of an Art deco Hollywood. The film has truth, wit and energy and the dialogue, written by a team including the legendary Dorothy Parker, is snappy and satirical as well as being shot through with tragedy.

This film defies its age and at 110 minutes is some 30 minutes shorter than any of those that would follow - a factor most definitely in its favour!