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According to a HR news item, director William Wellman, in collaboration with Robert Carson, formerly a New York magazine writer and novelist, was developing a screenplay in early Aug 1936 entitled "It Happened in Hollywood," which was based on a idea by producer David O. Selznick. The projected film, to be made entirely in Technicolor, was to star Merle Oberon. Some modern sources state that Wellman came up with the original idea, which he based on experiences of people he knew, and that he tried to interest Selznick in the screenplay, which he was writing with Carson. Selznick, the sources state, expressed little interest until his wife Irene read it and encouraged him to produce it. This version of the creation of the story is disputed in a memo from Selznick dated 7 Jan 1937, after the initial shooting had ended, in which he wrote that the film "is much more my story than Wellman's or Carson's. I refused to take credit on it simply as a matter of policy....The actual original idea, the story line, and the vast majority of the story ideas of the scenes themselves are my own."
       Selznick, in a modern source, stated that his intention in making the film was "to disprove what I had long believed had been a tradition until this time, that pictures about Hollywood could not succeed" and that he would do this by presenting the story "of a rising star in order to have the Cinderella element, with her path crossing that of a falling star, to get the tragedy of the ex-star." After the film was produced, the legal department at RKO, for ... More Less

According to a HR news item, director William Wellman, in collaboration with Robert Carson, formerly a New York magazine writer and novelist, was developing a screenplay in early Aug 1936 entitled "It Happened in Hollywood," which was based on a idea by producer David O. Selznick. The projected film, to be made entirely in Technicolor, was to star Merle Oberon. Some modern sources state that Wellman came up with the original idea, which he based on experiences of people he knew, and that he tried to interest Selznick in the screenplay, which he was writing with Carson. Selznick, the sources state, expressed little interest until his wife Irene read it and encouraged him to produce it. This version of the creation of the story is disputed in a memo from Selznick dated 7 Jan 1937, after the initial shooting had ended, in which he wrote that the film "is much more my story than Wellman's or Carson's. I refused to take credit on it simply as a matter of policy....The actual original idea, the story line, and the vast majority of the story ideas of the scenes themselves are my own."
       Selznick, in a modern source, stated that his intention in making the film was "to disprove what I had long believed had been a tradition until this time, that pictures about Hollywood could not succeed" and that he would do this by presenting the story "of a rising star in order to have the Cinderella element, with her path crossing that of a falling star, to get the tragedy of the ex-star." After the film was produced, the legal department at RKO, for whom Selznick had produced What Price Hollywood? in 1932, recommended that a suit should be filed to charge Selznick International with plagiarism of the earlier film. No further information concerning the proposed suit has been located (See Entry for What Price Hollywood? ).
       In a memo dated 21 Sep 1938, Selznick stated that he originally spoke to George Cukor, the director of What Price Hollywood? , about directing A Star Is Born , but that Cukor declined. (In 1954, however, Cukor directed a remake of the film.) Cukor has stated, in modern sources, that the scene in which "Oliver Niles" visits "Norman Maine" in a sanitarium was inspired by a visit he himself made to John Barrymore in a Culver City, CA sanitarium, during which he offered Barrymore a role in Camille . Modern sources have suggested that the character of Norman Maine was based on Barrymore, John Gilbert, B. P. Schulberg and John Bowers. According to a Var obituary and a HR news item dated 18 Nov 1936, Bowers, a prominent film star in the years 1923-26, who had been married to Marguerite de la Motte at the height of his career, was found dead on a Malibu beach on 17 Nov 1936. He had rented a small sailboat on 15 Nov and had told a friend that he was going to commit suicide by "sailing away into the sunset." Bowers' death occurred approximately two weeks into the filming of A Star Is Born . Modern sources state that the funeral scene in the film was inspired by occurrences at the funeral in 1936 of M-G-M production chief Irving Thalberg, whose widow, actress Norma Shearer, was hounded by a mob outside the church.
       According to HR news items, production was halted on 7 Dec 1936 when Wellman developed a case of the flu. He was replaced by Jack Conway until 19 Dec. A modern source states that when Wellman viewed the rushes of the funeral scene (which the modern source states was directed by Victor Fleming), he decided to reshoot it to have Janet Gaynor scream at the scene's conclusion. This was the first film of Margaret Tallichet and the first American film of British stage and screen actress Elizabeth Jenns. Although a HR news item stated that this was the first film of J. C. Nugent in five years, in reality, he had appeared in two films in 1935, although those may have been his only films since 1931. Marshall Neilan, who plays a small role in the Santa Anita clubhouse scene, joined Selznick's writing staff in early Dec 1936, according to a HR news item. Sound recordist Oscar Lagerstrom's name is misspelled in the onscreen credits. According to a DV news item, the final scene in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood was shot using crowds there for the preview of the United Artists release Rembrandt (see above). According to a HR news item, initial filming was completed five days ahead of schedule.
       Scenes in the film were shot at the following places in and around Hollywood: Grauman's Chinese Theatre; the Club Trocadero; the Hollywood Legion Stadium, where the boxing match was filmed; the swimming pool at the Ambassador Hotel; the Santa Anita Racetrack; the Hollywood Bowl; an estate in Beverly Hills; and the Biltmore Bowl, where the Academy Awards ceremonies were held. A NYT article states that the studio rented for two days the house of a prominent Los Angeles realtor for the country house sequence, and that the rental was arranged through the Film Location Bureau of the Assistance League.
       According to information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph Breen , after reading an incomplete script before production began, ordered a drinking scene cut, but wrote to Selznick, "This is a great picture." Reviewers agreed and praised the film highly, particularly for its treatment of the subject matter. Frank S. Nugent, of NYT , called it "the most accurate mirror ever held before the glittering, tinseled, trivial, generous, cruel and ecstatic world that is Hollywood," and Var stated that the film was "unquestionably the most effective" film made about Hollywood. According to a NYT article dated 25 Jul 1937, because of the success of A Star Is Born , which had only been in release for three months, fifteen films with Hollywood as their subject had either been completed or were in production. Reviewers also lauded the naturalistic use of color in the production. FD called it the first film with a modern theme to be made in Technicolor. Nugent, in NYT , stated that the film demonstrated that Technicolor "need not, should not, be restricted to the gaudy costume drama," and HR remarked, "the color is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming." According to a NYT news item during the production period, the scene during which a black-and-white film is projected in the preview screening marked the first time that the technique of projecting film on a transparency screen and then rephotographing it was used.
       According to modern sources, a number of writers in addition to those credited worked on the film. Ring Lardner, Jr., in his autobiography, states that he and Budd Schulberg wrote a few scenes, including the ending. At the time, according to Lardner, he was a twenty-one-year-old assistant to Selznick's publicity director, Russell Birdwell, and Schulberg was a reader in Selznick's story department. Other sources state that John Lee Mahin wrote the final scene, among others. While Matty Kemp is listed as having been cast in a HR news item, he was not in the film. Modern sources state that this was the first film for both Lana Turner and Carole Landis, who, they claim, appeared as extra in the Santa Anita clubhouse scene. Modern sources also list the following additional cast members: Dr. Leonard Walker ( Orchestra leader at Hollywood Bowl ), Bob Perry ( Referee ), Willy Morris ( Niles's secretary ), Jane Barnes ( Waitress ), Edward Hearn ( Orderly ), Vera Steadman and Helene Chadwick, who was director William Wellman's first wife.
       The film was named the No. 1 Money Making Film of 1937 in a national exhibitors' poll. Wellman and Carson won the Academy Award for Writing (Original Story), and W. Howard Greene was awarded a Special Award for color photography, which was recommended by a committee of leading cinematographers. In addition, the film was nominated for Academy Awards in the following categories: Best Picture; Best Actor (Fredric March); Best Actress (Janet Gaynor); Best Director (William Wellman); and Best Assistant Director (Eric Stacey).
       According to a DV news item dated 1 Mar 1938, Selznick planned to produce a sequel under the title Heartbreak Town , based on an original story by Budd Schulberg about the rise of a child star in Hollywood. The screenplay was to be written by Schulberg and Marshall Neilan, and the film was to star Tommy Kelly and Ann Gillis, who had played together in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (see above). A DV news item dated 18 Aug 1938 noted that Schulberg and Neilan were working on a screen story entitled "Cavalcade on Hollywood," that would deal with the history of Hollywood. No further information concerning the proposed sequel has been located. A Star Is Born was remade twice: a 1954 version produced by Warner Bros., directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason; and a 1976 version, released by Warner Bros., produced by Jon Peters, directed by Frank Pierson, and starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Garland also appeared with Walter Pidgeon on a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast based on the film on 28 Dec 1942. On 12 Mar 1987, a reconstructed print of the 1937 film, preserved by UCLA Film and Television Archives, had its premiere. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
1 May 1937.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 1936.
---
Daily Variety
19 Apr 37
p. 3.
Daily Variety
1 Mar 38
p. 4.
Daily Variety
18 Aug 38
p. 1.
Daily Variety
12 Mar 1987.
---
Film Daily
23 Apr 37
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Aug 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Oct 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 36
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Nov 36
p. 5, 7
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Nov 36
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Nov 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Nov 36
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Dec 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Dec 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Dec 36
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Dec 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Dec 36
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Dec 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Dec 36
p. 5, 6
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 36
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Apr 37
pp. 3-4.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 37
pp. 4-17.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Sep 37
p. 20.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jan 38
pp. 10-11.
Motion Picture Herald
27 Feb 37
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
1 May 37
p. 30.
MPSI
1 Jan 37
p. 30.
New York Times
23 Apr 37
p. 25.
Variety
28 Apr 37
p. 15.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Harvey Perry
Olin Howland
Jean Gale
Carleton Griffin
Maria Shelton
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Fill-In dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir assoc
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Film ed
Supv film ed Supv film ed
Ed asst to David O. Selznick
COSTUMES
Cost
Adolphe Menjou's ward des and executed by
Cost supplied by
MUSIC
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Screen and stage make-up by
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Chief elec
Casting dir
Constr superintendent
Loc mgr
Prod secretaries
Prod secretaries
Press rep
COLOR PERSONNEL
Des in color by
For the Technicolor Company, Color supv
DETAILS
Release Date:
30 April 1937
Premiere Information:
World preview in Hollywood: 20 Apr 1937
Production Date:
early Nov--28 Dec 1936; retakes in late Jan 1937
Copyright Claimant:
Selznick International Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
7 June 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7184
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording Sound System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
111
Length(in feet):
9,995
Length(in reels):
12
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
2986
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A screenplay entitled "A Star Is Born" is stamped with the words, "Final Shooting Script," then opened to reveal the following story: Esther Blodgett returns one winter evening to her home, an isolated farmhouse in North Dakota, after seeing a movie with her little brother Aleck, which starred her screen idol, Norman Maine. Esther's Aunt Mattie disdains Esther's obsession with the movies, and her father and grandmother Lettie are surprised to hear that Esther wants to be a movie star. After Mattie berates her, Esther runs to her room in tears. Lettie then tells Esther of her own past dreams of coming across the country in a "prairie schooner," and although she cautions Esther about the heartbreak that always comes to those who pursue their dreams, Lettie encourages Esther and gives her money to take a train to Hollywood. In Hollywood, Esther goes to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where she steps in the footprints of Norman Maine. Esther naïvely expects to begin immediately as an extra, but she learns the depressing news that no extra has been signed by Central Casting in the past two years. When she is told that she has only a one in one hundred thousand chance to succeed, she replies that maybe she is that "one." Esther makes friends with Danny McGuire, an out-of-work assistant director who lives in her roominghouse, and when he gets a job, they go to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, where Norman arrives drunk with actress Anita Regis and then starts a fight with a persistent photographer. Danny gets Esther a job as a waitress at a party his director is giving. Norman ... +


A screenplay entitled "A Star Is Born" is stamped with the words, "Final Shooting Script," then opened to reveal the following story: Esther Blodgett returns one winter evening to her home, an isolated farmhouse in North Dakota, after seeing a movie with her little brother Aleck, which starred her screen idol, Norman Maine. Esther's Aunt Mattie disdains Esther's obsession with the movies, and her father and grandmother Lettie are surprised to hear that Esther wants to be a movie star. After Mattie berates her, Esther runs to her room in tears. Lettie then tells Esther of her own past dreams of coming across the country in a "prairie schooner," and although she cautions Esther about the heartbreak that always comes to those who pursue their dreams, Lettie encourages Esther and gives her money to take a train to Hollywood. In Hollywood, Esther goes to Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where she steps in the footprints of Norman Maine. Esther naïvely expects to begin immediately as an extra, but she learns the depressing news that no extra has been signed by Central Casting in the past two years. When she is told that she has only a one in one hundred thousand chance to succeed, she replies that maybe she is that "one." Esther makes friends with Danny McGuire, an out-of-work assistant director who lives in her roominghouse, and when he gets a job, they go to a performance at the Hollywood Bowl, where Norman arrives drunk with actress Anita Regis and then starts a fight with a persistent photographer. Danny gets Esther a job as a waitress at a party his director is giving. Norman arrives at the party following another drunken escapade, which his exasperated press agent, Matt Libby, has kept out of the newspapers. Anita catches Norman in the kitchen flirting with Esther, and after she breaks a plate over his head, Norman and Esther leave together. Although he invites her to his place to talk over her career plans, Esther refuses, and after he gives her a goodnight kiss, he asks her to wait a moment so that he can take one last look at her before she goes in. Norman then phones and awakens studio head Oliver Niles at nearly three in the morning to arrange for a screen test for Esther, whose sincerity and honestness he praises. After the test, Esther signs a contract, and she is soon transformed by posture and voice coaches, and makeup artists into "Vicki Lester." Unable to find a suitable female lead for his next picture, Norman talks Oliver into using Esther, and she is a smash hit with the preview audience, who disparage Norman's performance. Norman and Esther celebrate at the Cafe Trocadero overlooking the city, where Norman tells Esther that she now can have anything in the world, but reveals that stardom has not made him happy and that he feels he has thrown his life away. Esther comforts him and tries to convinces him that it is not too late, and they hug. At a boxing match, Norman proposes marriage, and the couple marry quietly at a small town courthouse, which spoils Libby's plans to cash in on the publicity. Soon after their honeymoon trip in a trailer, Norman's contract is cancelled, and he is relegated to the role of house husband, while Esther becomes a top star. Norman starts drinking again, and during the Academy Awards ceremonies, he drunkenly interrupts Esther's acceptance speech for the award for finest performance by an actress and accidentally slaps her in the face. Sometime later, at Esther's instigation, Oliver visits Norman, now in a sanitarium, to offer him a role in a picture, but when Norman learns that it is not the lead, he good-naturedly declines. During Christmas week, Norman, out of the sanitarium and on the wagon, visits Santa Anita Racetrack, where he runs into Libby. Although Norman tries not to get riled as Libby brutally razzes him, when Libby crudely suggests that he is sponging off his wife, Norman hits Libby, who belts him. Norman then orders a bottle of scotch, and four days later, Esther learns that he has been arrested for crashing his car into a tree while intoxicated. Through Esther's pleading with the judge, Norman is released to her custody, but the newspapers make the incident into a front-page story. At their beach house in Malibu, Norman overhears Esther tell Oliver that she must now quit the movies so that she can go away with Norman. After Oliver leaves, Norman finds Esther crying. He tells her that he is going for a swim, and before he leaves her, he asks, as he did the night they met, for one last look at her. He then walks into the ocean and drowns. Outside the church where Norman's funeral is held, the uncaring comments and actions of Esther's fans cause her to scream hysterically. She is about to leave town, when Lettie arrives and convinces her that tragedy is a test and that she must not run away from herself. Later, as Esther is about to be interviewed on radio at a premiere in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre, she sees Norman's footprints and starts to swoon, but she recovers and says with pride into the microphone, "Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine." The last page of the screenplay, which contains the above line, is shown, and the screenplay is closed. +

Legend
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Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.