Hooray For Hollywood!
I love movies, and I LOVE movies ABOUT movies! This is the time of year when everyone celebrates their love of film – as the awards season is now underway! 2011’s Award-winning “The Artist” is just the latest film to take you into the world “where dreams are made…”
There are so many movies about movies that I have posted previously, but here are a couple that I want to mention again…
A Star Is Born –
THE definitive movie about movies. It has been filmed 3 times, and there hare plans for a new version – now starring Bradley Cooper and Lady GaGa, directed by Cooper!
It all began in 1937. The original “A Star Is Born” was produced by legendary Producer David O. Selznick. It stars Janet Gaynor as an aspiring Hollywood actress, and Fredric March as aging movie star Norman Maine, who helps launch her career. As her career grows, his stalls, with tragic results. Ultimately, he can’t handle the pressure and commits suicide.
At the premiere of her next film at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Janet Gaynor is asked to say a few words into the microphone to her many fans listening across the world; she announces, “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.” As you will see, this dramatic ending is replicated in some very unique ways going forward…
A Star Is Born – 1954. THIS is the legendary version. Directed by George Cukor, this version starred James Mason as Norman Maine, a movie star whose career is on the wane, who meets showgirl Esther Blodgett when he drunkenly stumbles into her act one night. This is one of the most amazing performances Judy Garland ever gave – and a new Blu-ray version includes a ton of material cut before release…this film showcases the best of her singing, dancing and acting ability – and credit must go to James Mason as well, who brings real depth to the role of a matinee idol whose star is on the wane…
Because the role of Norman Maine is that of a has-been actor, it was rejected by Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Cary Grant (who at first accepted it) before being finally accepted by James Mason.
A Star Is Born -1976. Enter Barbra Streisand. She was determined to remake this classic Hollywood story, but move it to the world of rock ‘n’ roll. In this version, talented rock star John Norman Howard is played by Kris Kristofferson, who in real life was a country music star – he wrote such hits as “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through The Night.”. In this music-based version, the singer has seen too many years of concerts and managers and life on the road have made him cynical and the monotony has taken its toll. Then he meets the innocent, pure and very talented singer Esther Hoffman – Barbra Streisand.
Barbra Streisand insisted that she wanted Elvis Presley for the part of John Norman Howard. She even went to Las Vegas to see Elvis after one of his performances in 1975 and talked to him directly to convince him to play the part. Elvis wanted to do it but Colonel Tom Parker, his manager, was angry that Streisand did not come to him first. Imagine what could have been: Elvis revitalized, energized and renewed…but it was not to be.
Streisand has a reputation, and this film is full of legendary stories. Director Frank Pierson was so angered by his experience working with Streisand that he wrote a first person account, published in both New York and New West magazines, detailing what a horrible experience it had been. Pierson portrayed his star as egocentric, manipulative and controlling.
Streisand won the Oscar for Best Song for “Evergreen”. And at the end, when the previous films ended with “Hello everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine,” in this version, the announcer states “here is Esther Hoffman Howard”, and Babs launches into an 8-min song – a beautiful tribute to her late husband, but the camera stays on her in closeup for the ENTIRE SONG. An 8-min closeup of Streisand as she pays tribute to her dead husband…
The Last Of Sheila – 1973.
“The Last of Sheila” is one of the great underrated films of the ’70s: a bitchy Hollywood whodunit and a clever parlor game co-written by “Psycho” star Anthony Perkins and Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim. Yes, you read it right! They loved games and so they wrote the ultimate “game playing” movie that skewered Hollywood in the process.
Producer James Coburn invites a Writer, Sex Kitten, Agent, Director and assorted hangers-on to join him on his yacht on the French Riviera – for a cruel game of “guess the deep, dark secret.” Everyone has one; but naturally some are more wicked than others. Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch, and Ian McShane are the odd cast of participants.
This is a great great movie, directed by Herbert Ross, who also directed “The Goodbye Girl” and “The Turning Point.” I promise you will love this movie – as Coburn says with a big toothy grin. “Cut! Print! Perfect!”