Film Society Selection
Second of two showings this month
'A STAR IS BORN'
book a ticket for this and forthcoming BFS screenings please contact the
SHP Box Office on 01344 484123 or click the logo below to book via the
Tickets: Mon-Thur evenings & all matinees £9.10, Conc £8.10, Members £7.50
Fri-Sun evenings £9.10, Members £7.50
BFS Members £7.10 for BFS films - you may be asked to show your membership card. Phone reservations can be held for 4 days.
Thursday 25th April 7.30pm
FILM RECEIVED 1 OSCAR, 2 MORE WINS AND 7 NOMINATIONS
William Wellman, US, 1937, 111 minutes
Cast: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou
The bitter-sweet tale of an alcoholic leading man on the skids and his young wife
whose career is just taking off. Possibly overshadowed in terms of fame by three
remakes, the quality of this version shines through, thanks to the high-powered acting
and a sparkling screenplay by Dorothy Parker.
Not for a long time has there been a picture as susceptible to legitimate exploitation and few if any that better deserved it or could make a bigger return in dollars. A Star Is Born, with a responsive world-audience ready made, is due for a record-smashing career everywhere.
In its picturization of the film world of Hollywood, Selznick does the industry a marked service. Without missing its comedies or its fascinations of whitewashing its follies and its heartbreaks it contrives to give an essentially authentic and a wholesome portrait. This is not the usual parody or burlesque of the film capital but an almost documentary presentation, albeit a delightfully entertaining and slyly amusing one.
The story is as typical of Hollywood as are the episodes so adroitly chosen to embody it the meteoric rise of one player by persistence, hard work and a likable personality and the slide to obscurity of another whose head has been turned by success. The device of joining these two in a happy marriage, so that the man's decline runs side by side with his wife's advancement until they are faced with the need for the self-sacrifice of one or the other, is exceedingly effective in creating emotional stress, sympathy and acting opportunity. It also makes the perfect frame for a comprehensive look in on Hollywood's work world and play spots.
The stars who play these stars are Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Miss Gaynor is the sweet, smalltown Esther Blodgett who joins the thousands storming the studio gates and, unlike most of the thousands, gets her chance and becomes the world-favorite, Vicki Lester. March is the enormously successful Norman Main, whose numerous affairs with women and heavy drinking have already set him on the skids that are so seldom reversible. Both give brilliant portrayals. Miss Gaynor's unaffected naturalness and always winning personality are Vicki's big assets throughout her screen career but she commands with power an ample emotional range as the tragic ending approaches. March, in his drunken flamboyance, his struggles against his own weakness, his respectful adoration of his girl wife and his final courageous facing of the supreme sacrifice for her sake, is completely satisfying. Every chord rings true and the character is at all times made sympathetic, despite the surface defacements.
The use of Technicolor for the production adds greatly to its interest and value, precisely because the color is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming. The tints are more completely controlled and effective than in any of the previous color pictures. Soft tones in expressive harmonies prevail and even the inevitable solid blacks are capitalized for pictorial value, notably in the opening night episode in the girl's home town, where the somberness of the situation is matched by low-key photography, with so little color apparent that it will probably miss the attention of many. Credit goes to Lansing C. Holding, designer and to Natalie Kalmus of the Technicolor staff, for this satisfying advance in the new technique.
The story is the work of William A. Wellman, who also directs, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell. It is especially effective in meeting the problem of multiple activities and locations. Drama does not really begin until the marriage, half way through, but the long opening narrative built of short scenes that are often little more than anecdotes, each one of which is a step in the girl's climb, is completely self-supporting, as are each of its parts. The writing is delightful and the comedy content is surprisingly high as it is true to the real Hollywood.