The tale of A Star is Born is a classic story that has been told three times in movie form. First, there is the 1937 version which, to my knowledge, did not contain any musical numbers. Years later in 1954 Judy Garland saddled into the role of the budding star, Esther, and nearly won an Oscar for her performance (my personal favorite). Then came 1976 and Streisand gave us her take of this understated character.
Although, this movie did not go as planned from the very beginning. For starters, Barbra decided that she wanted Elvis Presley to play the role of John Norman Howard, a distressed singer who falls in love while creating a new superstar. Presley wanted to play the role, but his manager became angry when Barbra went around him and straight to Elvis to make the pitch. There are chains of command Ms. Streisand!
There was a string of other actors considered for the male lead including Marlon Brando, Neil Diamond, and Mick Jaggar. I am not positive how Kristofferson came into play, but he was nearly the movie’s saving grace. Oddly, his drunkenness throughout the movie made it bearable. I think he role played this character on and off screen.
Now there is two ways to looking at this film. One lens is through the film itself, the other is through it’s soundtrack.
The film itself is decent with overwhelming musical performances by Streisand. In fact, every notable musical sequence throughout the film belonged to Streisand and her portrayal of Esther. Kristofferson was just a necessity to make the film. Thank goodness he was there, especially through those horrendous outfits. A sweater at a hot summer concert? A bow tie in a recording studio? Dandruff in a wedding?
The soundtrack is where my love lies. I like every song off the album, but my particular favorites are “Watch Closely Now,” “Queen Bee,” and “The Woman in the Moon.” The first was introduced by Kristofferson, but was later redone in the film by Ms. Streisand. The latter was Streisand’s alone and contains some very creative lyrics and “Moon” is seductively sassy. Of course on every Streisand “Greatest Hits” collection you’ll see “Evergreen.” The one song she solely wrote the music to.
So the music was great, the film was alright, and Streisand was a star to be reckoned with. I feel the soundtrack and movie was an attempt by Streisand to make herself relevant in a time where her vocal style was waining. She had some control over each aspect of the movie and soundtrack where she was a producer. Her vocals soar, while Kristofferson seemed to be pushed to the corner. Now Kris is no Barbra, but he has his own chops.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that Streisand is one of the greatest talents of the 20th and 21st century, but this movie was just plain egotistical. Kristofferson said that Streisand cured him from the movies.
Even all her clothes she choose herself….from her closet….watch the credits.
Oh, and another reason Elvis didn’t join the cast, he wanted top billing and Streisand wouldn’t stand for that.
Lastly, It was just painful to watch Barbra in this role. It demeaned her acting skills, and sometimes her vocals.There just seems to be a hint of desperation. Her vocals are great, but sometimes overly simplified. Her acting was good, but she could do better.
In the end a star was not born.
A star clearly existed.