A Star is Born

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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What if there was a movie that got remade once every generation as a showcase for a current singing star? That seems to be the lot of “A Star Is Born.”

You recall the plot: A young actress/singer meets and falls in love with a big star, but her career ascends while his declines.

Some people claim a 1937 movie called “What Price Hollywood?” was the basis for the successive films.

That same year the first “A Star Is Born” hit the screens, starring Janet Gaynor in her only technicolor film. Her mentor was played by Frederic March.

It has been remade three times.

In 1954, Judy Garland took the lead in a new “A Star Is Born.” She appeared opposite James Mason.

In 1978, Barbara Streisand stepped onto the screen in “A Star Is Born.” Sparks flew with Kris Kristofferson as the alcoholic singer.

And now we get Lady Gaga in the role of the ingénue, with heartthrob Bradley Cooper both co-starring and directing.

In this reiteration, Cooper casts himself as Jackson Maine, a fortyish mid-career rock musician already bored with success. Gaga takes the role of Ally, a plucky waitress trying to get her singing foothold in an L.A. drag club.

As Entertainment Weekly describes it, “Jackson is a sort of drawling, denim-clad cowboy-poet very much in the mode of Kris Kristofferson’s iconic 1976 iteration and Jeff Bridges’ Oscar-winning turn in Crazy Heart — an archetype whose familiarity lives somewhere between sincere tribute and Marlboro Man cliché.”

But it’s Gaga’s serious actress film debut that will have people talking. Time magazine extolls, “Lady Gaga Delivers a Knockout Performance.” New York Magazine crows, “Lady Gaga triumphs.” AV Club opines, “Gaga keeps the film’s heart pumping. She’s … every bit as good as everyone has been saying.”

This latest version of “A Star Is Born” is currently playing at Tropic Cinema.

Talks of this remake began back in 2011, with Clint Eastwood set to direct and Beyoncé in the starring role. Male leads approached to co-star ranged from Will Smith to Tom Cruise.

Bradley Cooper stepped in to co-star and direct. Cooper’s films have earned a total of $7.8 billion worldwide, so he had the clout to take over the project. Nonetheless, he was fearful that this third-time remake might end his career if it failed.

Settling on Lady Gaga in the eponymous title role, he set out to make this a serious musical for the age of talent contests.
Cooper and Gaga (né Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) co-wrote most of the songs on the film’s soundtrack. She insisted they record them live to capture a spontaneity.

“She said right from the beginning that this was going to be a bargain,” recounts Cooper. “‘I’m gonna rely on you to get a performance that’s honest out of me,’ because she’d never done a film before, ‘and I’m gonna make sure you that turn into a musician, because we’re going to sing everything live.’ And I thought, wait, what? She said, ‘No, the only way this is going to work — I can’t stand when I watch movies when they have music and you can tell when it’s pre-recorded and people are lip-syncing. And she’s right. So that was terrifying, but I really relied on her.”

Cooper undertook vocal training for 18 months to prepare for his singing role.

As Billboard put it, “Bradley Cooper may be the one sitting in the director’s chair of the 2018 remake of ‘A Star Is Born,’ but Lady Gaga was more than just his leading lady: She was his talent coach and musical guide, and he “relied” on her expertise to deliver a performance that involved surprising 80,000 people with a sneaky serenade.”

As Cooper tells it, “One of the great things that I love about the movie is we shot everything from the stage, and we went to real concerts, real venues, and just jumped onstage for 45 minutes. We were at Stagecoach; I got to sing in front of like, 20,000 people. We got to jump on the stage at Glastonbury, which is the largest open-air music festival in the world, and I was there at the Pyramid Stage, singing in front of 80,000 people. The production value you get out of that is great.”

Lady Gaga was already famous. Bradley Cooper is Hollywood’s 4th highest paid actor. But here let’s apply the “A Star Is Born” title to Bradley Cooper the director.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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