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Cameron H.

Musical Mondays Week 63 A Star is Born (1937)

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Sorry, I’m late. I was taking a swim...

We watched:

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I saw a few of you have realized you're just not "A Star is Born" people on Letterboxd, and that's fine... you're all wrong, but that's fine :P

I really enjoyed this version a lot more than I anticipated and while I didn't get to see the Judy nor the Babs version over the weekend, I can totally see what Bradley Cooper was so inspired by and what he took from this original version, and it made me appreciate the one from last year a hell of a lot more.

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I think that's interesting about this version is it spends a lot of time telling Janet Gaynor how bad the industry is for people, how difficult it is to succeed and basically nothing at all has changed in the industry in the 80+ years since this came out. Every criticism we have about the film industry is so old, and so known, that they were making movies about it when my grandparents were kids.

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As a “non-Star is Born” person, I admit that I liked this one more than the greasy Bradley Cooper version. I felt like Maine was sincere with his affection in the ‘37 version whereas I felt like Jackson Maine was more about self-pity. Granted, there’s not a whole lot of difference between the two, so I guess I preferred March’s acting better.

However, I will say that the newer version did at least try to give an underlying reason for Maine’s behavior, so that’s something, I guess...

And I will say this, if the newer version ended with “Shallow,” I would have been all in. But from that point forward, it became more Jackson’s story than Ally’s, and I always felt ahead of it. And the peeing scene was fucking dumb.

The ‘37 version felt more consistent throughout. It felt balanced between the two leads, and I actually felt sorry for Maine. I wish it didn’t have the grandma coda, but at least it didn’t end with “I Believe I Can Fly,” so that’s an improvement :P 

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In the 2018 one I didn't get that you were supposed to feel as bad for Jackson as you were for Aly. To me it was like the way any of us feel bad for someone that can't pull themselves out of their addiction. You feel empathy for them, because you know it's a disease, but you don't necessarily feel like he's the victim of the story.

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I actually really liked the grandma coda. I think it brought Ester's story full circle, and I really liked her grandma's pluck. She was a pioneer who was willing to explore (we can talk about "pioneers" another time), and she gave Ester not only the money but the confidence to go give acting a try, despite the odds, "Maybe I'm that one!" and her grandmother reminds her at the end of all she's achieved. And of course her (grandma's) comment to the radio audience at the end that she finally made it was a nice comedic touch. The final scene reminded me of Ester's own struggles and triumphs. She put in a lot of work to get where she was, whereas Ally was just discovered. I felt that Ester/Vicky had way more agency in her story in this version than Ally did. 

That said, Lady Gaga was the best thing about the newest remake, which I felt was more of a Cooper vanity project. The two of them had excellent chemistry, but I didn't find any redeeming qualities in his character. The movie opened with a scene of Jackson on stage, then drinking and struggling with tinnitus. We don't see Ally's struggles, or really anything of her life aside from her dad and her friend. It was all just Jackson's story and how he struggled with losing fame and his family, and it's clear to see that Cooper made an effort to make that role more substantive, but I felt like it was at Ally's expense. And I feel it's fair to say the movie's second half just really struggles. I don't mean to dump on the 2018 version (I cried basically any time Lady Gaga sang a ballad), I just really prefer the 1937 version. 

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I watched the first 3 versions and have not seen the new one. (Hopefully this week.)

I would say this '37 version is my favorite, easy. It has the best humor mixed in with the dramatic story. It's just the most likable if you ask me. 

Interestingly, the '54 version literally uses the same dialogue, scenes, shots as the first for like the last quarter of the film. They knew the first one got it right, I think, and that also makes this version feel pointless. Even if it has some great songs.

I've found all the acting to be pretty solid -- it's a natural story for great acting I guess. The '70s version is ridiculous though, and the writing is pretty bad. The music is weirdly bland and generic.

I think I generally consider it to just be a story about Esther, and more or less ignore Norman haha. It's her life, and the relative success of the picture depends on how much you get a sense of her full arc. The '37 version gives it all from start to finish, from her just being a fan of the movies to her massive success to even the little coda. Judy Garland is already sort of a success at the start of it, she just switches careers because the guy says so. Streisand isn't, but she doesn't seem to want to be where she ends up either, which changes the arc a lot.

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Oh, one interesting thing I noticed. In the 1937 version, we see the work -- take her name change, for instance. We see a bunch of studio folk trying to figure out the best sounding name, and an (albeit, tame) struggle to try to get it right and figure it out. We also see her practicing acting, and things like that.

In the 1954 version, Judy Garland just shows up to get her paycheck and they tell her she has a new name. It's just thrust right on her, done. 

Streisand didn't change her name at all, if I recall.

Maybe it's a minor nitpick but I think it really shows off the differences between the movies. 

(I really should watch the 2018 version.)

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6 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

That said, Lady Gaga was the best thing about the newest remake, which I felt was more of a Cooper vanity project. The two of them had excellent chemistry, but I didn't find any redeeming qualities in his character. The movie opened with a scene of Jackson on stage, then drinking and struggling with tinnitus. We don't see Ally's struggles, or really anything of her life aside from her dad and her friend. It was all just Jackson's story and how he struggled with losing fame and his family, and it's clear to see that Cooper made an effort to make that role more substantive, but I felt like it was at Ally's expense. And I feel it's fair to say the movie's second half just really struggles. I don't mean to dump on the 2018 version (I cried basically any time Lady Gaga sang a ballad), I just really prefer the 1937 version. 

I could say this about the 37 version as well though. I think we see a lot of how Norman Maine deals with the loss of his career and how Ester is gaining more track than him, but we don't see anything about how she is actually beloved by everyone now. They just seem to jump in time to her premiere to winning an Oscar in a flash.

A thing I also thought was extremely interesting was besides her poor attempt at acting while she was a waitress and then that one tiny scene from their movie premiere, we never actually get to see her act. I compared it a lot to All About Eve and how we never actually got to see any of those actresses act, and I wonder if it's either just a product of it's time in that's not really a conscious decision they made, or if it was and they wanted to hide how well everyone thought she was doing so that we would fill in those gaps.

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Just now, AlmostAGhost said:

Oh, one interesting thing I noticed. In the 1937 version, we see the work -- take her name change, for instance. We see a bunch of studio folk trying to figure out the best sounding name, and an (albeit, tame) struggle to try to get it right and figure it out.

In the 1954 version, Judy Garland just shows up to get her paycheck and they tell her she has a new name. It's just thrust right on her, done. 

Streisand didn't change her name at all, if I recall.

Maybe it's a minor nitpick but I think it really shows off the differences between the movies. 

(I really should watch the 2018 version.)

Aly doesn't change her name either but definitely just goes by "Aly" which is a major pop star move. I think it's very accurate to the times that in 37 and 54 they would totally change their names, but by the 70s they wouldn't, and by 2018 they would just drop her last name or adopt a stage persona (a la Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Halsey, Beyonce, etc.)

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2 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

A thing I also thought was extremely interesting was besides her poor attempt at acting while she was a waitress and then that one tiny scene from their movie premiere, we never actually get to see her act.

I think we do a little - there's that scene when she's waitressing and doing all those accents/impersonations. I think that was supposed to be a glimpse of her talent.

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4 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I think we do a little - there's that scene when she's waitressing and doing all those accents/impersonations. I think that was supposed to be a glimpse of her talent.

That's why I said besides that part. I didn't see that part as genuine acting as much as we may have been supposed to. It was way too cringe worthy for me knowing how much of a no-no that is to take any of it seriously.

Also, Norman never saw her act in that scene whatsoever. He arrived after the fact and just is entranced by her to the point where he just "knows" (I did love how his studio boss was like "uh huh sure just like all the others" to point out that this was not the first time he had boosted some random girl's career because of lust).

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Hm sorry yea, there were like 4 new posts as I was writing mine.

But what I mean, I don't think the waitressing bits were supposed to be 'poor.'  She was impressing people with her impressions. It does feel a little dated though since I don't know who she was supposed to be imitating...

You're right he never saw it though. Still, his elevation of her worked and she won an Oscar. His instinct was right, on her at least. That doesn't bother me. And it implies the bit that luck does play in becoming a success, which is pretty fair for a movie like this.

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12 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Hm sorry yea, there were like 4 new posts as I was writing mine.

But what I mean, I don't think the waitressing bits were supposed to be 'poor.'  She was impressing people with her impressions. It does feel a little dated though since I don't know who she was supposed to be imitating...

You're right he never saw it though. Still, his elevation of her worked and she won an Oscar. His instinct was right, on her at least. That doesn't bother me. And it implies the bit that luck does play in becoming a success, which is pretty fair for a movie like this.

I thought the only one that was really well done was the Mae West impression, maybe because it was the only I got like that dude did lol, but the German accent and the British accent were so bad I was like lord no honey pls what is you doin'.

Oh I didn't say that it bothered me that he never saw her. It actually played really true to how I bet a lot of this goes in Hollywood, although I will admit that Jackson getting to hear Aly and see her writing a song before he makes that decision made a lot more sense for me personally.

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Okay, I promise I'll get to the '37 version soon, but one thing that annoyed the crap out of me in the 2018 version (and I know this is a bit nitpicky) was how obsessed her father was with Frank Sinatra. I mean, I like Sinatra fine, but he kept telling these stories like, "I knew a this guy who was better than Sinatra, but Sinatra was the one who got famous." Like, her father couldn't have been older than 65? 70? In 2018, he would have been a child during the Sixties, what is he talking about having buddies who were better than Sinatra? Sinatra would have been in his 50's and well-established by that point. I don't even care if it's just because he likes Sinatra. Hell, I like Sinatra. But if I'm going to make a point about how people I knew were just as good as someone else, I would use someone contemporary to me. He should have been like, "I knew this blues-rock band who were better than Zeppelin, but they just didn't get the recognition.

It's just another weird thing about the new movie. It was like, in some ways, they didn't even really try to update it for the times. 

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4 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Okay, I promise I'll get to the '37 version soon, but one thing that annoyed the crap out of me in the 2018 version (and I know this is a bit nitpicky) was how obsessed her father was with Frank Sinatra. I mean, I like Sinatra fine, but he kept telling these stories like, "I knew a this guy who was better than Sinatra, but Sinatra was the one who got famous." Like, her father couldn't have been older than 65? 70? In 2018, he would have been a child during the Sixties, what is he talking about having buddies who were better than Sinatra? Sinatra would have been in his 50's and was well-established by that point. I don't even care if it's just because he likes Sinatra. Hell, I like Sinatra. But if I'm going to make a point about how people I knew were just as good as someone else, I would use someone contemporary to me. He should have been like, "I knew this blues-rock band who were better than Zeppelin, but they just didn't get the recognition.

It's just another weird thing about the new movie. It was like, in some ways, they didn't even really try to update it for the times. 

I assumed it was actually him that he was considering was better than Sinatra. I didn't remember him saying it was a buddy so to me it was like he was a jazz singer and he had talent but he didn't get famous and now he holds a major grudge about it for the rest of his life. But it still doesn't hold much weight if you hold his age that much for sure. Dice was born in 57 and totally by that point Sinatra was already on the scene and famous AF. Which, I didn't recognize it to be Dice at all so maybe we are supposed to imagine that he's 20 years older than he actually is or whatever.

ETA: Also maybe the Sinatra thing is a major NY Italian thing??? I didn't bat my eye at it at first simply because I grew up with my grandfather loving that music since he was a contemporary of that time, but it seemed in line for that character specifically. Like I bet he was super into Jazz and probably totally skipped over the Rock era because he couldn't let go of his own dream of being Sinatra.

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23 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

I assumed it was actually him that he was considering was better than Sinatra. I didn't remember him saying it was a buddy so to me it was like he was a jazz singer and he had talent but he didn't get famous and now he holds a major grudge about it for the rest of his life. But it still doesn't hold much weight if you hold his age that much for sure. Dice was born in 57 and totally by that point Sinatra was already on the scene and famous AF. Which, I didn't recognize it to be Dice at all so maybe we are supposed to imagine that he's 20 years older than he actually is or whatever.

ETA: Also maybe the Sinatra thing is a major NY Italian thing??? I didn't bat my eye at it at first simply because I grew up with my grandfather loving that music since he was a contemporary of that time, but it seemed in line for that character specifically. Like I bet he was super into Jazz and probably totally skipped over the Rock era because he couldn't let go of his own dream of being Sinatra.

This was the line specifically:

"You know? I knew a couple of guys could sing Sinatra under the table. But Frank, he'd come on stage with the blue eyes, the sharkskin suit, the patent leather shoes... he becomes Frank Sinatra. And everybody else, all these other guys... that really got it, that really have it inside... just a bunch of nobodies." 

Her father does say later that some other singer, I want to say Frankie Avalon or Frankie Vallie but the script I'm looking at doesn't mention them, says that they told him that he could also out sing Sinatra.

Like I said, it's not a big deal, but would have made more sense in maybe the 70's version. In 2018, it just felt weird and lazy. ("Oh, New York Italian guys? They all love Sinatra! It doesn't matter that he was a teenager in the early 70's.")

(I had no idea that was Dice)

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6 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

This was the line specifically:

"You know? I knew a couple of guys could sing Sinatra under the table. But Frank, he'd come on stage with the blue eyes, the sharkskin suit, the patent leather shoes... he becomes Frank Sinatra. And everybody else, all these other guys... that really got it, that really have it inside... just a bunch of nobodies." 

Her father does say later that some other singer, I want to say Frankie Avalon or Frankie Vallie but the script I'm looking at doesn't mention them, says that they told him that he could also out sing Sinatra.

Like I said, it's not a big deal, but would have made more sense in maybe the 70's version. In 2018, it just felt weird and lazy. ("Oh, New York Italian guys? They all love Sinatra! It doesn't matter that he was a teenager in the early 70's.")

(I had no idea that was Dice)

You're right. I had really forgotten the exact lines for sure, but I could have sworn that he had said himself at one point too so that must have been the Frankie whoever part and I thought that had shed a huge light on how he was effected by the industry before Aly was born and why she was so afraid to do anything about her dreams.

(My mom and I saw it together and saw the name "Andrew Dice Clay" and both at the same time went, "WHO WAS HE???" and I had to pull my phone out during the credits to look it up. It was a huge surprise.)

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1 hour ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

I actually really liked the grandma coda. I think it brought Ester's story full circle, and I really liked her grandma's pluck. She was a pioneer who was willing to explore (we can talk about "pioneers" another time), and she gave Ester not only the money but the confidence to go give acting a try, despite the odds, "Maybe I'm that one!" and her grandmother reminds her at the end of all she's achieved.

I forgot about the pioneer thing! I've been kind of noticing older people in old movies a lot lately (if you get what I mean). Like if you see an 80 year old person in a movie from the 30's it's like, "Wow! They were alive during the Civil War!" So, yeah, I liked the pioneer thing. It makes you realize how close together these events - Westward Expansion and the Advent of Hollywood - actually were.

That being said, I did have a bit of a chuckle when her grandmother said something like, "You being out here gave me something to live for. If you quit, I've got nothing." I was thinking, "Is she really saying, 'Do you want two deaths on your hands?'" lol

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2 hours ago, taylorannephoto said:

I thought the only one that was really well done was the Mae West impression, maybe because it was the only I got like that dude did lol, but the German accent and the British accent were so bad I was like lord no honey pls what is you doin'.

 

Just a nitpick that it wasn't an English accent. She was doing Katharine Hepburn, and I thought pretty well :)

It's true that we don't see either of them really act in the movies. But I agree with the thought line that it plays at the luck and emptiness of Hollywood, and the movie is more about how their relationship changes with her success. And I think what I liked more about the '37 version, is that we're clear that Ester's dreams are of success. I kind of felt like that with Ally in the new one, at least once she got her confidence. And maybe in their meet-cute we're supposed to understand that she's already given it her try and got shot down. But Esther keeps going, regardless. She still has hope that she's "the one in 100,000" whereas Ally feels like the success just landed in her lap thanks to Jackson, and that giving it up wasn't as big a sacrifice for her. 

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1 minute ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

Just a nitpick that it wasn't an English accent. She was doing Katharine Hepburn, and I thought pretty well :)

We'll have to blame Amazon's subtitles for that one then because it said "IN ENGLISH ACCENT" and I was like this is the worst thing I've heard what the hell LOL

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3 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

We'll have to blame Amazon's subtitles for that one then because it said "IN ENGLISH ACCENT" and I was like this is the worst thing I've heard what the hell LOL

Yeah, that's because Katharine has an accent all her own ;) 

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41 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

But Esther keeps going, regardless. She still has hope that she's "the one in 100,000" whereas Ally feels like the success just landed in her lap thanks to Jackson, and that giving it up wasn't as big a sacrifice for her. 

This is very true. We get that it’s her father’s dream, but we never see Aly actually pursue it the way Esther does. We’re just supposed to understand that’s what Aly wants but that she’s given up on it (I guess).

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16 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

This is very true. We get that it’s her father’s dream, but we never see Aly actually pursue it the way Esther does. We’re just supposed to understand that’s what Aly wants but that she’s given up on it (I guess).

I believe that at the point where we meet Aly she had just been beaten by insecurities, because she makes a comment that she keeps getting told that she'll make it big if it weren't for how ugly she was. So I don't think she ever really gives it up because she's still performing, but I don't think she's been told "No," the same way that Ester has. In the 37 version we just see that Ester gets told no because there are 100,000 other girls going out for the same jobs, but Aly gets told no because of her nose.

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14 minutes ago, taylorannephoto said:

I believe that at the point where we meet Aly she had just been beaten by insecurities, because she makes a comment that she keeps getting told that she'll make it big if it weren't for how ugly she was. So I don't think she ever really gives it up because she's still performing, but I don't think she's been told "No," the same way that Ester has. In the 37 version we just see that Ester gets told no because there are 100,000 other girls going out for the same jobs, but Aly gets told no because of her nose.

Good point. It's a worse version of rejection for Aly, and I agree that she hasn't given up entirely. Also, her performance at the bar was spine tingling. 

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