A Star Is Born (1976)

R | 142 mins | Drama | 19 December 1976

Full page view
HISTORY

       Promotional materials in AMPAS library production files referred to A Star Is Born as a remake of the two previous A Star Is Born movies (1937 and 1954, see entries); however, the film’s working title was Rainbow Road. The film was still referred to by its working title until a news item in 12 May 1975 Newsweek, which first used the title A Star Is Born.
       In a Sep 1976 Esquire article, screenwriter John Gregory Dunne explained that on 1 Jul 1973, while visiting Honolulu, HI, he told his wife and writing partner, Joan Didion, about an idea to make a rock 'n’ roll version of A Star Is Born, starring singers Carly Simon and James Taylor. Neither writer had seen the earlier versions of the film, but Dunne stated he believed the only way to get a studio to underwrite a movie about the rock music industry was to superficially place it in a familiar story. Dunne and Didion took the idea to their ex-agent, Dick Shepherd, the head of Warner Bros., according to a 24 Jan 1975 New Times article. A 19 Aug 1973 news item in NYT reported that Dunne and Didion had begun work for Warner Bros. on a remake of A Star Is Born. As stated in New Times and the Sep 1976 Esquire, the two writers spent a total of three weeks touring with the rock groups Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, and Jethro Tull to research the rock industry. After six ... More Less

       Promotional materials in AMPAS library production files referred to A Star Is Born as a remake of the two previous A Star Is Born movies (1937 and 1954, see entries); however, the film’s working title was Rainbow Road. The film was still referred to by its working title until a news item in 12 May 1975 Newsweek, which first used the title A Star Is Born.
       In a Sep 1976 Esquire article, screenwriter John Gregory Dunne explained that on 1 Jul 1973, while visiting Honolulu, HI, he told his wife and writing partner, Joan Didion, about an idea to make a rock 'n’ roll version of A Star Is Born, starring singers Carly Simon and James Taylor. Neither writer had seen the earlier versions of the film, but Dunne stated he believed the only way to get a studio to underwrite a movie about the rock music industry was to superficially place it in a familiar story. Dunne and Didion took the idea to their ex-agent, Dick Shepherd, the head of Warner Bros., according to a 24 Jan 1975 New Times article. A 19 Aug 1973 news item in NYT reported that Dunne and Didion had begun work for Warner Bros. on a remake of A Star Is Born. As stated in New Times and the Sep 1976 Esquire, the two writers spent a total of three weeks touring with the rock groups Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, and Jethro Tull to research the rock industry. After six months, they submitted the first draft of Rainbow Road to talent agent Sue Mengers of Creative Management Associates. Mengers showed it to director Peter Bogdanovich and actress Cybill Shephard, but neither were interested.
       John Foreman then became producer, and eventually worked as executive producer although he is not credited onscreen. Concurrently, director Mark Rydell read the script, and offered to help to develop the project, free of charge. Warner Bros. wanted Rydell to direct if he could “punch up the script,” cast the movie, and choreograph the concert scene in ninety days.
       In Apr 1974, music producer Rick Perry joined the project to oversee the film’s musical concepts, despite his stated feelings that the script was a cliché and failed to capture the contemporary rock scene.
       As reported in New Times, Rydell approached singers Carly Simon and James Taylor to play the leads, but the couple felt the story was too close to their real relationship and declined. Rydell next approached singers Diana Ross and Alan Price, but Diana Ross was under contract to Motown Records and the idea was vetoed by Motown’s founder, Berry Gordy Jr. Warner Bros. also rejected Alan Price as “too esoteric.” The studio wanted the leading roles to be chosen from talent signed to its sister company, Warner Bros. Records, and although Kris Kristofferson was chosen for the male lead, he did not sign a contract.
       A principal photography start date of Sep 1975 was proposed so that Rainbow Road could be released at Christmas, but Rydell could not find a female lead, and when his contracted ninety days passed, he left the project to be replaced by director Jerry Schwartzberg.
       Meanwhile, Mengers gave the script to actress Barbra Streisand, but she was then working on Funny Lady (1975, see entry), and turned it down. However, Streisand’s boyfriend, Jon Peters, read the script and convinced her to do the movie. Streisand ordered a re-write that would be closer to the other film versions, stating she wanted to explore the sexual roles of 1970s as compared to those of 1930s and 1950s.
       According to New Times, Streisand insisted Kristofferson’s name appear below her name on screen as well as the title and held up Kristofferson’s decision to sign his contract. At one point, Streisand suggested Jon Peters for the part, but Schwartzberg refused to shoot a “documentary” on Streisand’s and Peters’ relationship.
       After Dunne and Didion submitted a third draft of the screenplay and were paid $124,000, plus ten percent of the gross, they left the project. Jon Peters suggested hiring writer George Axelrod, who wanted to reverse the leading roles, so that Streisand would be a Janis Joplin-like character who self destructs. Schwartzberg disagreed and a 13 Jul 1974 HR news item announced that he left the project for “undefined artistic differences” and production delays due to Axelrod’s re-writes.
       New Times reported that, in the fall of 1974, Streisand officially signed on to star in Rainbow Road after reading the first fifty-five pages of Axelrod’s script. This new script did not have the role reversal that Schwartzberg objected to.
       According to promotional materials, Peters then approached directors Arthur Hill and Hal Ashby to direct, but they both turned it down. Peters suggested that he co-direct with Rick Perry, or direct the film himself.
       The 13 Jul 1974 HR also reported that Jon Peters was now the film’s producer, with principal photography scheduled begin Dec 1974 or Jan 1975.
       In late 1974, Streisand wanted to incorporate more elements from the 1937 version, but Axelrod objected, and he was fired. Writers Bob Dillion and Laura Dillion were hired, but neither name appears in the film’s credits.
       When both Rick Perry and John Foreman decided to leave the project, principal photography was rescheduled for late spring 1975.
       A news item in the 16 Apr 1975 LAT reported that actor-singer Elvis Presley was in negotiations to play the male lead in Rainbow Road, but the AMPAS library file noted that Presley passed on the opportunity after meeting Barbra Streisand and producer Jon Peters in Las Vegas, NV.
       On 12 May 1975, Newsweek reported that Peters was going to produce and direct A Star Is Born, but, by 26 May 1975, LAT reported Peters was not directing, and suggested that either Bob Fosse or Peter Bogdanovich would take his place. An article in 30 May 1975 NYT reported that writer Arthur Laurents turned down an offer to re-write the screenplay for the film, now budgeted at $5 million.
       According to New Time, Rick Perry was replaced by composer Jack Nitzsche; however, a 6 Jul 1975 HR news item announced that Rupert Holmes was hired to compose the film’s score. None of the men are credited onscreen.
       In late summer 1975, Warner Bros. was pushing for a Sep 1975 or a Jan 1976 start date for principal photography, but the male lead was still not signed, nor was there a director. Although Sidney Limet and Robert Altman were considered, a 6 Aug 1975 ^HR reported that Frank Pierson was hired as the new director and would also adapt the screenplay.
       According to promotional materials, Streisand and Peters believed Pierson was hired strictly as a writer who would “collaborate” on Streisand’s vision of the film, but Pierson contradicted this story, stating he informed Streisand and Peters he would only accept the assignment if he was also the director. Tension between Pierson and Streisand developed when Pierson refused to finish the script, claiming he wanted to keep everything “spontaneous and fast.” At this time, casting for the male lead was narrowed down to either rock singer Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, or Kristofferson.
       A 22 Sep 1975 HR news item announced that a start date for principal photography was set for 2 Jan 1976 and that Kristofferson was to play “John Norman Howard.”
       After actor Gary Busey was cast as “Bobby Ritchie,” he introduced Streisand to musician Leon Russell. Busey played in Russell’s band and Streisand asked Russell to contribute to the soundtrack. During a late night writing session, Streisand played a melody she wrote and Russell insisted they use it to begin a song and started to sing lyrics that became “Lost Inside Of You.” This event inspired the songwriting scene between “Esther Hoffman” and “John Norman Howard” in the movie.
       By Nov 1975, sets had begun construction, and a new start date was set for 1 Feb 1976. When shooting began; the budget was set at $6 million with a sixty day schedule, which included studio filming at the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank, California.
       For the rock concert scene, Pierson insisted on mounting a real concert at Sun Devil Stadium at the University of Arizona in Tempe, AZ. To attract a crowd, Pierson used top name rock groups and hired Bill Graham, a veteran rock concert promoter. Graham was given only eleven days to organize a concert he normally took two months to arrange. As noted in a 17 Mar 1976 DV news item, the bands included Santana, Montrose, Graham Central Station, and the L.A. Jets. The Doobie Brothers were also scheduled to appear, but due to logistical problems they were replaced with singer Peter Frampton. DV also stated that Grady Gammage Auditorium and other Tuscon area locations were used.
       According to 23 Mar 1976 ^DV, the concert attracted 43,000 fans who paid $4 a ticket. Even with 50% of the proceeds going to the March of Dimes charity, ticket sales raised enough money to nearly cover the expense of the two day’s shooting.
       Production materials found at the AMPAS library stated that the film came in under schedule and under budget, costing less than the $6 million spent on the Judy Garland version. A review in the 24 Dec 1976 Daily News, stated the film cost $5.5 million.
       Daily News also reported that after Pierson edited the film, he was “released from duty,” allowing Streisand to re-edit the film, which resulted in a three and one-half hour running time. It was then decided that the film was lacking a scene that depicted Esther becoming an actual star. Instead of shooting a new scene, 16mm footage from the Sun Devil Stadium press conference, shot for a documentary on the making of the movie, was interspersed with 35mm footage that had been shot by Pierson. Although it is presented as Esther Hoffman’s press conference, Streisand is actually discussing her real-life album, Classical Barbra.
       Two separate endings were filmed. One had Esther singing a fast rock song and the other was a seven minute ballad where Esther displays different emotions of grief. Preview audiences preferred the ballad, and while Streisand considered releasing the film with both endings, only the ballad version was used.
       One month before the film’s opening, Peters convinced Columbia Records to release the soundtrack album and for Warner Bros. to concentrate its $400,000 promotional budget on the two weeks before the film debuted. An 11 Jan 1978 Var news item stated that the film’s soundtrack went triple platinum, selling over three million albums.
       According to a news item in the 1 Oct 1976 HR, the film premiered on 18 Dec 1976 at Mann’s Village Theater in the Westwood area of Los Angeles, CA. Proceeds were given to the Los Angeles International Film Exposition.
       Although the filmed received lukewarm reviews, it was a financial success and earned an Academy Award for Music (Original Song), as well as nominations in the following categories: Music (Original Song Score and its Adaptation or Adaptation Score), Cinematography, and Sound.
       The film won Golden Globe awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Streisand), Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Kristofferson), Best Original Score (Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher) and Best Original Song, (Streisand and Williams for "Evergreen").
       According to a news item in the 10 Feb 1977 LAT, Hollywood costume designers successfully petitioned AMPAS to disqualify Barbra Streisand from being eligible for a nomination for costume design as Streisand’s screen credit stated she wore clothes from her own closet.
       A 7 Mar 1995 DV news brief reported composer Andrew Lloyd Webber had purchased the rights to A Star is Born for a theatrical musical. As of Jan 2014, no musical has been produced.
       Filmmakers Clint Eastwood, Bill Gerber and Jon Peters were planning on producing a re-make of A Star is Born starring singer Beyonce with Eastwood directing, according to a news brief in the 21 Jan 2011 HR. Writer Will Fetters was signed to write the screenplay. However, as of Jan 2014, no such film has been released.
      End credits include "special thanks" to Joyce Sullivan and Grace Davidson.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily News
24 Dec 1976.
---
Daily Variety
23 Mar 1976.
---
Daily Variety
17 May 1976.
---
Daily Variety
7 Mar 1995.
---
Esquire
Sep 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Jul 1974.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
22 Sep 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
20 Dec 1976
p. 3, 15.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 2011.
---
Los Angeles Times
16 Apr 1975.
---
Los Angeles Times
21 Dec 1976
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
10 Feb 1977.
---
New Times
24 Jan 1975.
---
New York Times
19 Aug 1973.
---
New York Times
30 May 1975.
---
New York Times
27 Dec 1976
p. 16.
Newsweek
12 May 1975.
---
Variety
22 Dec 1976
p. 20.
Variety
11 Jan 1978.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANIES
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Barwoood/Jon Peters Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on a story by
Based on a story by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Concert lighting
Cam op
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Gaffer
Key grip
Chem-Tone scenes by
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Ms. Streisand's clothes from
Ward
MUSIC
Mus concepts
Mus & live rec prod
Mus underscore
Mus supv
Mus coord
Live mus rec mixed
Songs rec live at
Songs rec live at
Songs rec live at
Songs rec live at
SOUND
Prod sd mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Dubbing mixer
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Concert rec equip
Concert sd equip
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Choreog
MAKEUP
Hairdresser for Ms. Streisand
Hairdresser
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod auditor
Spec seq
Spec seq
Casting supv
Asst to Ms. Streisand
Scr supv
Transportation
Asst to Mr. Peters
Prod services and equip provided by
Burbank, California
Prod services and equip provided by
Concert stage
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Watch Closely Now," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
"Spanish Lies," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
"Hellacious Acres," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
+
SONGS
"Watch Closely Now," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
"Spanish Lies," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
"Hellacious Acres," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher
"Queen Bee," music and lyrics by Rupert Holmes
"Everything," music by Rupert Holmes, lyrics by Rupert Holmes & Paul Williams
"Lost Inside Of You," music and lyrics by Leon Russell & Barbra Streisand
"Evergreen (Love Theme From 'A Star Is Born')," lyrics by Paul Williams, music by Barbra Streisand
"Woman In The Moon," music and lyrics by Paul Williams and Paul Ascher
"I Believe In Love," music by Kenny Loggins, lyrics by Alan Bergman & Marilyn Bergman
"Crippled Crow," music and lyrics by Donna Weiss
"With One More Look At You," music and lyrics by Paul Williams & Kenny Ascher.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
19 December 1976
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 19 December 1976
New York opening: 25 December 1976
Production Date:
began 1 February 1976
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 December 1976
Copyright Number:
LP46850
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby System noise reduction - high fidelity
Color
Widescreen/ratio
Filmed with Panavision® equipment
Duration(in mins):
142
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Rock star John Norman Howard arrives two hours late for a concert. John’s stage manager, Bobby Ritchie, pumps him with cocaine and whiskey before rushing him onstage. However, John is so stoned that he forgets the words to his songs, and curses his audience. When the show is over, Bobby pleads with John to sleep, but John insists on going to a small club, where he sees Esther Hoffman singing. When John argues with a waitress, Esther steps off stage and tells John he is ruining her act. Abashed, John sits quietly watching Esther sing. However, a man picks a fight with John and the club’s owner throws everyone out and calls the police. In the mayhem, Esther sneaks John out the back door and he insists on giving her a ride home in his limousine. Esther reluctantly agrees and invites him to have breakfast with her. The next morning, John brings Esther a pizza and invites her to his big concert in Arizona. They fly out there by helicopter and Esther watches with disgust as John ingests cocaine and whisky before taking the stage. During the first song, John tries to drag Esther onstage, but she runs away. Following her, John gets on a motorcycle given to him by a fan and drives on stage. He loses control and crashes into the audience before being airlifted to the hospital. Esther is left stranded in the desert. Later, John recuperates by a swimming pool and complains that Esther will not return his calls. Just then, a local radio station’s helicopter appears and a disc jockey, ... +


Rock star John Norman Howard arrives two hours late for a concert. John’s stage manager, Bobby Ritchie, pumps him with cocaine and whiskey before rushing him onstage. However, John is so stoned that he forgets the words to his songs, and curses his audience. When the show is over, Bobby pleads with John to sleep, but John insists on going to a small club, where he sees Esther Hoffman singing. When John argues with a waitress, Esther steps off stage and tells John he is ruining her act. Abashed, John sits quietly watching Esther sing. However, a man picks a fight with John and the club’s owner throws everyone out and calls the police. In the mayhem, Esther sneaks John out the back door and he insists on giving her a ride home in his limousine. Esther reluctantly agrees and invites him to have breakfast with her. The next morning, John brings Esther a pizza and invites her to his big concert in Arizona. They fly out there by helicopter and Esther watches with disgust as John ingests cocaine and whisky before taking the stage. During the first song, John tries to drag Esther onstage, but she runs away. Following her, John gets on a motorcycle given to him by a fan and drives on stage. He loses control and crashes into the audience before being airlifted to the hospital. Esther is left stranded in the desert. Later, John recuperates by a swimming pool and complains that Esther will not return his calls. Just then, a local radio station’s helicopter appears and a disc jockey, Bebe Jesus, begs John for an interview over a loud speaker. John grabs a pistol and fires at him. John later goes to Bebe’s station to apologize, but Bebe embarrasses him on the air and John hurls a case of whiskey through the radio booth’s window. Storming away, John sees Esther, who is recording a cat food jingle. He takes her to his mansion, but she is unimpressed by his wealth. In the music room, Esther discovers a grand piano and plays a song she wrote as child. John improvises lyrics that express his love for her and they make love. In time, Esther and John move in together and John mentors Esther’s career. One day, Bobby arrives, upset that John is using his band to record Esther’s music instead of John’s own album. Although Esther later informs Bobby that John is now sober, the manager is only concerned about John’s productivity. A few nights later, John drags Esther onstage during his performance. Despite the audience’s complaints, Esther sings and the crowd explodes with a standing ovation. John relinquishes the stage to his lover. Later, John’s representatives swarm over Esther and reporters scream for an interview, but John comes to the rescue and guides her away as Bebe shouts that while Esther is terrific, John is a loser. When Esther proposes to John, he insists that he is no good for her, but they get married at city hall, and honeymoon at John’s ranch. There, they build a house with their own hands. Months later, their agent, Brian, arrives to prepare Esther for her tour. Brian convinces John not to come because his bad press will hurt Esther’s career. Although Esther protests, John agrees, and Esther becomes a big success. One day, John decides to get his band back together, only to discover they are recording on their own. John lies to Bobby, saying he was approached to start a solo career, then returns to an empty house where the telephone keeps ringing for Esther. Esther wins a Grammy award, but John shows up intoxicated during her acceptance speech. He snatches the microphone and demands an award for the year’s worst performance. As Esther rushes him off stage, John gets into a shoving match with the security guards and Esther is knocked over. Bebe sarcastically asks John how he feels about beating his wife up, and John punches him. Esther grabs John, drags him into the ladies’ room, and demands to know why he is so self-destructive, but John remains silent. Desperate to help her husband, Esther begs Brian to record John’s new songs. Brian meets with John, but insists that the star sing his old hits. John refuses and the two sever their professional relationship. One day, John comes home to find a naked woman in his pool who offers to exchange sex for an exclusive interview with Esther. When Esther returns home and finds John in bed with the girl, she smashes vases and whisky bottles, screaming that John will not “trash” her life. However, John holds her, and repeats that he loves her. Reconciling, John and Esther take a second honeymoon to the ranch, where they plan a new tour together. The morning after their arrival, John claims that he needs to pick Brian up at the airport. He kisses Esther goodbye, climbs in his car, and drives off the road at 160 miles per hour. Esther is helicoptered to the crash site, where she tries to clean John’s dead body with a handkerchief. She whispers in his ear that she is afraid and needs him to hold her, but the paramedics pry her loose so they can move the body. Later, as a hearse carries John’s body for burial, Bebe’s voice is heard over the radio, claiming that John was a brother to him, and that John was one of the all-time greats. Days later, Esther discovers a tape recording of John trying to write a new song. Calling John a selfish liar, Esther snatches the tape and destroys it. Much later, Esther steps on stage for a concert, introduced by her married name, Esther Hoffman-Howard. As Esther belts out the song that John recorded, the audience members lights matches and hold the flames in the air. +

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

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

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.