Far from a Hollywood unknown, Janet Gaynor had a decade long career before doing A Star is Born. In fact, hitting the brick wall that is 30, she did two more films before being relegated to the occasional TV guest appearance. More likely it was because of her 1939 marriage, but the first narrative sells better copy. And Fredric March, far from a fading star, went on to an extensive career lasting over thirty years more.
A Star is Born (1937) is best known for having been remade in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, which was remade in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which was remade in 2018 with the Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but apparently the story bares a closer than casual resemblance to the 1932 film What Price Hollywood? With Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman. When Hollywood sees a good formula, they know to overdo it. I’d also like to point out that at no point here did they actually cast a young unknown in the lead role. Brave.
Maybe the story was lifted from What Price Hollywood? Or maybe it was inspired by rising star Barbara Stanwyck’s marriage to spiraling leading man Frank Fay, or maybe by drunken has-been John Barrymore who has cast in the Maine/March role but couldn’t remember his lines because he was a drunken has-been. Maybe all and more. Anyhow, Star is an amusing melodrama with charming characters and good on-screen chemistry. Let’s see if I can see the other three (or four) before the year is out. AMRU 3.5.