A STAR IS BORN [1937 / 2022] [Warner Archive Collection] [Blu-ray] [USA Release] See Janet Gaynor and Fredric March in Glorious Stunning Technicolor!

Producer David O. Selznick turned his attention to Hollywood with this 1937 original classic directed by William A. Wellman. Its Academy Award® winning screenplay co-written by Dorothy Parker tells the story of hopeful, young would-be actress Esther Blodgett (Academy Award® winner Janet Gaynor) whose career is launched by movie star Norman Maine (Academy Award® winner Fredric March), who also wins the young actress' heart. Esther Blodgett becomes leading lady Vicki Lester and Mrs. Norman Maine, but as Mrs. Norman Maine's career flounders, Norman Maine sinks into an abyss of alcoholism. Esther Blodgett chooses to sacrifice her stardom to care for her husband, but he will not allow Esther Blodgett to abandon her dreams for him. Remade three times in years ahead, this original version has finally undergone a meticulous restoration and has been remastered from its original nitrate Technicolor camera negatives, especially for this Warner Archive Blu-ray release. The result is a sterling presentation of a landmark in film history for this new restored edition.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1937 National Board of Review, USA: Win: NBR Award for Top Ten Films. 1937 Venice Film Festival: Nominated: Mussolini Cup for Best Foreign Film for William A. Wellman. 1938 Academy Awards®: Win: Honorary Award for William Howard Greene for the colour photography of ‘A STAR IS BORN’ (plaque) and this award was recommended by a committee of leading cinematographers after viewing all the colour pictures made during that year. Win: Best Writing and Original Story for Robert Carson and William A. Wellman. Nominated: Best Picture. Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Fredric March. Nominated: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Janet Gaynor. Nominated: Best Director for William A. Wellman. Nominated: Best Writing and Screenplay for Alan Campbell, Dorothy Parker and Robert Carson. Nominated: Best Assistant Director for Eric Stacey. 2021 Online Film & Television Association: Win: OFTA Film Hall of Fame for the 1937 Motion Picture ‘A STAR IS BORN.’ 

FILM FACT No.2: At the time of the release of the film, a 15-minute transcription – a pre-recorded radio show issued on a 16-inch disc – promoting the film's release was made. The narrated promotional radio show included sound clips from the film. The show was recorded and released through the World Broadcasting System, with disc matrix number H-1636-2. Selznick International Pictures dissolved leaving the film's rights to financier John Hay Whitney. Whitney then sold the film to Film Classics, Inc. in 1943. With declining rerun revenue, Film Classics placed the film up for sale with producer Edward L. Alperson with the intent to remake the film. Instead Alperson sold the film's copyright including film, story, screenplay, and score to Warner Bros. in 1953. Warner in 1954 issued the first remake. In 1965, the film entered the public domain in the United States because Warner Bros. did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication. However, the officially restored version that was completed in 2022 from the original 35MM master elements is copyrighted by Pictures. The rights to the film's story, screenplay, score, and the aforementioned master elements rest with Warner Bros.; thus it still has exclusive rights to all three remakes as well as any future remakes.

Cast: Janet Gaynor, Fredric March, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Andy Devine, Lionel Stander, Owen Moore, Peggy Wood, Elizabeth Jenns, Edgar Kennedy, J.C. Nugent, Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams, Jean Acker (uncredited), Eric Alden (uncredited), Irving Bacon (uncredited), Jane Barnes (uncredited), Vince Barnett (uncredited), Clara Blandick (uncredited), Wade Boteler (uncredited), Sidney Bracey (uncredited), Harry C. Bradley (uncredited), Lynton Brent (uncredited), Blanche Bush (uncredited), Buddy Byron (uncredited), Helene Chadwick (uncredited), George Chandler (uncredited), Billy Coe (uncredited), Virginia Dabney (uncredited), Billy Dooley (uncredited), Dora Early (uncredited), Herbert Evans (uncredited), Rex Evans (uncredited), Pat Flaherty (uncredited), Francis Ford (uncredited), Trixie Friganza (uncredited), Jean Gale (uncredited), Joe Gray (uncredited), Harrison Greene (uncredited), Carlton Griffin (uncredited), Jonathan Hale (uncredited), Sherry Hall (uncredited), Chuck Hamilton (uncredited), Lillian Harmer (uncredited), Grace Hayle (uncredited), Edward Hearn (uncredited), Leon Holmes (uncredited), Robert Homans (uncredited), Janice Hood (uncredited), Kenneth Howell (uncredited), Olin Howland (uncredited), Arthur Hoyt (uncredited), Mary Jane Irving (uncredited), Michael Jeffers (uncredited), I. Stanford Jolley (uncredited), Armand Kaliz (uncredited), Eddie Kane (uncredited), Matty Kemp (uncredited), Claude King (uncredited), Elaine Koehler (uncredited), Carole Landis (uncredited), Myra Marsh (uncredited), Chris-Pin Martin (uncredited), Edwin Maxwell (uncredited), Buddy Messinger (uncredited), Willy Morris (uncredited), Ferdinand Munier (uncredited), Marshall Neilan (uncredited), David Newell (uncredited), Robert Emmett O'Connor (uncredited), Dennis O'Keefe (uncredited), Ted Oliver (uncredited), Renee Orsell (uncredited), Franklin Pangborn (uncredited), Harvey Parry (uncredited), Osgood Perkins (uncredited),   Bob Perry (uncredited), Lee Phelps (uncredited), Jed Prouty (uncredited), Sally Raynor (uncredited), Tom Ricketts (uncredited), Adrian Rosley (uncredited), Kathryn Sheldon (uncredited), Marla Shelton (uncredited), Paul Stanton (uncredited), Vera Steadman (uncredited), Kay Sutton (uncredited), A.W. Sweatt (uncredited), Margaret Tallichet (uncredited), Fred 'Snowflake' Toones (uncredited), Tommy Tucker (uncredited), Leonard Walker (uncredited), Luana Walters (uncredited), Cynthia Westlake (uncredited), Charles Williams (uncredited), and Clarence Wilson (uncredited)

Directors: Jack Conway (uncredited), Victor Fleming (uncredited) and William A. Wellman

Producer: David O. Selznick

Screenplay: Alan Campbell (screenplay), Dorothy Parker (screenplay), Robert Carson (screenplay), Robert Carson (from a story), William A. Wellman (from a story), Adela Rogers St. Johns (uncredited), Ben Hecht (contributing writer) (uncredited), Budd Schulberg (contributing writer) (uncredited), David O. Selznick (contributing writer) (uncredited), John Lee Mahin (contributing writer) (uncredited) and Ring Lardner Jr. (contributing writer) (uncredited)

Composer: Max Steiner

Costume Design: Omar Kiam

Cinematography: William Howard Greene (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 111 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Archive Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘A STAR IS BORN’ [1937] has been made many times — as four Hollywood feature films, one television movie, and one Bollywood picture. The 1937 original, produced by David O. Selznick, directed by William A. Wellman, is often forgotten amongst the more recent versions. But now people can view this lost masterpiece for the first time since 1937 on this brilliant Blu-ray release in all its glory.

The Oscar winning story, by William A. Wellman and Robert Carson, was the basis of all the remakes, but here it was the origin, turned into a screenplay by Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell. The tale is by now familiar ground— a young woman becomes a star overnight while simultaneously her husband experiences ruin. A rise and a fall, all in all in glorious Technicolor!

Magically capturing the essence of that Hollywood which too many millions throughout the world is the most interesting city on earth, and welding into that a poignant film-star love tale, the whole embodied in a production in colour of superlative excellence, David O. Selznick has smashed through again with a triumphant entertainment.

In ‘A STAR IS BORN,’ Esther Blodgett [Janet Gaynor] is an innocent but bright-eyed farm girl who is intent on making her way to Hollywood to become an actress. Against her father and aunt’s wishes, but encouraged by her grandmother, Esther Blodgett leaves the nest and goes to Tinsel Town. Esther Blodgett quickly learns that things are not so easy. With the help of a neighbour, Danny [Andy Devine], who happens to be an assistant director, Esther Blodgett is placed in positions where she can “meet” people. Sure enough, Esther Blodgett encounters a big star, Norman Maine [Fredric March].

Unfortunately, Norman Maine’s glory days seem to be behind him as the bottle has dictated a gradual descent in popularity. Nevertheless, Norman Maine is struck by Esther Blodgett and the screen test for her with his producer, Oliver Niles [Adolphe Menjou]. Oliver Niles immediately sees Esther Blodgett’s potential, gives her the more marketable name of “Vicki Lester,” and she is off and running. Promising to quit drinking, Norman Maine asks Esther Blodgett to marry him, and she accepts. But as Esther Blodgett aka Vicki Lester becomes more successful, Norman Maine falls off the wagon and their relationship eventually goes off the rails.

There is one scene that exists in all the versions of ‘A STAR IS BORN,’ and that is when the husband embarrasses his wife during her moment of triumph at an awards ceremony —  here the event is the Oscars, as it was in in the 1954 film edition. The moment is powerful and excruciating, and it is one of the reasons both Janet Gaynor and Fredric March were nominated for Best Actor and Actress for the film.

Janet Gaynor is especially good, and Fredric March is always brilliant. The supporting cast — Adolphe Menjou, Andy Devine, May Robson, Lionel Stander, and Edgar Kennedy — are utterly stellar performances.

The picture ‘A STAR IS BORN,’ while assuredly a drama that takes a hard look at the alcoholism destroying Norman Maine, is also striking for the amount of humour it contains.  There are many Hollywood in-jokes, such as when Janet Gaynor impersonates several leading actresses of the day when Esther Blodgett is waitressing at a star-studded party.  Lionel Stander, Andy Devine, and Edgar Kennedy, known for their comedic turns, also provide much of the levity.

The rest of the supporting cast is large and excellent, some of the best work being in uncredited bits in the short scenes. Among the standouts are Peggy Wood, Elizabeth Jenns, J.C. Nugent, Guinn Williams and Clarence Wilson. But be warned, by the end of the film you will be emotionally drained and is definitely a 10 Kleenex tissue experience and definitely a true Hollywood tour de force film.


CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME (1924) (uncredited) (Music by Joseph Meyer) [Variations in the score as Esther arrives in Hollywood]

Les Préludes (1848) (uncredited) [Played by the orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl]

DANCING IN THR DARK (1931) (Music by Arthur Schwartz) [Played at the Trocadero Club]

AULD LANG SYNE (uncredited) (Scottish traditional music) [Played as background music when Esther and Granny say goodbye at the railway station and when Granny meets Esther in Hollywood]

WAH! HOO! (uncredited) (Written by Cliff Friend) [Sung by Janet Gaynor]

BYE BYE BABY (uncredited) (Music by Lou Handman) [Played by the orchestra at the Academy Awards Party]

BLOOD ON THE SADDLE (uncredited) (Written by Everett Cheatham) [Performed by Andy Devine] (uncredited)

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Blu-ray Image Quality – Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Archive Collection presents the 1937 film ‘A STAR IS BORN’ with a wonderful 1080p image that was from the 35mm Technicolor nitrate print from the George Eastman House Motion Picture Department and given a new meticulous 4K restoration scan from the original nitrate Technicolor camera negative, and it looks absolutely fantastic and shown in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The Technicolor image quality is a total awesome delight, especially to see it in high definition. The use of Technicolor for the production adds greatly to its interest and value, precisely because the colour is at all times kept subordinate. It enriches without overwhelming. The tints are more completely controlled and effective than in any of the previous colour 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 sombreness of the situation is matched by low-key photography, with so little colour 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.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Warner Bros. Pictures and Warner Archive Collection brings us the 1937 film ‘A STAR IS BORN’ with the standard 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio experience is really excellent and any audio issues have been kept to a minimum. The dialogue, action sounds, and music are clear without much in the way of any distortions. No major drop-out or hissing took place during the audio presentation. So all in all, this gets a definite five star rating.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

‘A STAR IS BORN’ Restored from the Original Technicolor Negative

Special Feature: Vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon: A Star Is Hatched [1937] [1080p] [1.37:1] [8:08] Emily the chicken, lives in Hickville but dreams of Hollywood. Her chance comes when director J. Megga-Phone happens to drive past and gives her his card. She makes her way to Hollywood, and Megga-Phone's office, where she discovers a whole flock of hens with the same card and a completely uncaring Megga-Phone. She returns home to faithful Clem, and a chick with foolish notions. Voice Cast: Emily [Elvia Allman], Emily [Sara Berner] (uncredited), Director Yelling “Cut” [Mel Blanc] (uncredited), Baby Chick [Bernice Hansen] (uncredited) and J. Megga Phone [Tedd Pierce] (uncredited). Director: Friz Freleng. Screenplay: Tedd Pierce (story).

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Special Feature: Vintage Warner Bros. Shorts: Here we get to view three vintage 1937 black-and-white shorts originally presented as pre-show or related entertainment around the time of the 1937 ‘A STAR IS BORN’ theatrical run and they are as follows:

Vintage Warner Bros. Short: Music and Dance: Mal Hallett and His Orchestra [1937] [1080i] [1.37:1] [9:23] Here we get to see Mal Hallett and His Orchestra with Teddy Grace, Jerry Perkins, Buddy & Claire Green and the Wallace Brothers and this Vitaphone musical short which is centred around a music class but blossoms into an opportunity for various groups to play music and sing a tune at the MAL HALLET School of Swing.

Vintage Warner Bros. Short: Taking the Count [1937] [1080i] [1.37:1] [21:40] Now that they're engaged, Ann Howe wants Joe Palooka to retire from the ring, seeing as how he's the heavyweight champ. Ann Howe's mother Mrs. Howe, who doesn't want her daughter marrying “beneath” the wealthy family's standing, to set Ann Howe up with a European count. What the mother doesn't know is that the “European count” is after the family's money more than he is Ann Howe. Contributors include: Robert Norton [Joe Palooka], Beverly Phalon [Ann Howe], Shemp Howard [Knobby Walsh], Charles Kemper [Mr. Howe], Johnnie Berkes [Johnny], Regina Wallace [Mrs. Howe], John Vosbough [Count Rocco] and Jack Shutta [The Count's Butler]. Director: Lloyd French. Producer: Samuel Sax (uncredited). Screenplay: Eddie Forman (story), Jack Henley (story) and Ham Fisher (based on the comic strip). Musical Director: David Mendoza (uncredited). Cinematography: Ray Foster.

Vintage Warner Bros. Short: Alibi Mark [1937] [1080i] [1.37:1] [13:20] Here we have Floyd Gibbons, in another of the Vitaphone "Your True Adventure" series of shorts featuring him as “The Headline Hunter,” and narrates the story of a young man from Chicago who went west to seek a job and hopped a freight car. Getting off the train, he is clubbed by a railroad watchman, escapes and heads for town. He finds an empty wallet and tries to trade it in town for a meal. The counterman recognizes it as belonging to a filling station man who was killed by a tramp. The angry townsmen are about to lynch the boy, when the railroad detective shows up and identifies him (by the bruise on his head) as the man he slugged, establishing an alibi and saving his life. Contributors include: Floyd Gibbons [The Headline Hunter / Narrator], Dennis Moore [Vincent Bader], Clifford Stork [Proprietor Lunchroom], Fred Whitehouse [Dishwasher], Carlyle Moore Jr. [Mack], Joseph Singer  [Bill], Harry Shannon [Railroad Detective], Charles Withers [Sheriff] and Vincent Bader [Real Vincent Bader] (uncredited). Director: Joseph Henabery. Producer: Samuel Sax (uncredited). Screenplay: Floyd Gibbons (uncredited) and Ira Genet. Musical Director: David Mendoza. Cinematography: Ray Foster.  

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Special Feature: Lux Radio Theatre Broadcasts: Here we get to hear two condensed radio adaptations of ‘A STAR IS BORN’ with different leads, the second of which features none other than Judy Garland a full 12 years before and they are as follows:

Lux Radio Theater Broadcast: ‘A STAR IS BORN’ [Audio only]   [1937] [1080p] [1.78:1] [60:38] Here we get to hear the Lux Radio Theater Broadcast 1937 version of ‘A STAR IS BORN’ that co-starred Janet Gaynor, Robert Montgomery, Lionel Stander, May Robson and Lou Merrill. Scenario North Dakota farm girl Esther Victoria Blodgett yearns to become a Hollywood actress. Although her aunt and father discourage such thoughts, Esther's grandmother gives Esther Victoria Blodgett her savings to follow her dream. Presented by Cecil B. DeMille. First broadcast on 13/09/1937.

Lux Radio Theater Broadcast: ‘A STAR IS BORN’ [Audio only] [1942] [1080p] [1.78:1] [58:27] Here we get to hear the Lux Radio Theater Broadcast 1942 version of ‘A STAR IS BORN.’ Starring: Judy Garland, Walter Pidgeon, Verna Felton, Frances Robinson, Norman Field, Jane Morgan, Arthur Q. Bryan, Charles Seel, Walter Pidgeon, Leo Cleary, Fred MacKaye and Eddie Marr. Presented by Cecil B. DeMille. First broadcast on 27/04/1942. Please Note: This was one of Judy Garland's favourite radio performances. After Judy Garland performed it for this broadcast, legend has it that Judy Garland lobbied M-G-M to do a musical remake of the 1937 Janet Gaynor and Frederic March film that this broadcast was based on. M-G-M scoffed at the idea of “America's Singing Sweetheart” Judy Garland playing a character married to an alcoholic. It was too serious a subject matter for the M-G-M musicals of the time. Of course, after she left M-G-M, Judy Garland's big film comeback was the 1954 musical version of the story, just as she had wanted to do for so long, and of course the film ‘A STAR IS BORN’ is a masterpiece.

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Theatrical Trailer [1937] [1080p] [1.37:1] [2:49] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘A STAR IS BORN.’

Finally, the 1937 ‘A STAR IS BORN’ is a classic film that continues to inspire remakes. This particular ‘A STAR IS BORN’ film is for the classic film of this calibre and especially classic Hollywood. Technical credits for this striking work must be unstinted. With William A. Wellman directing, has built magnificently, and eliciting top values in human interest, veracious comedy and moving emotion. William Howard Greene’s cinematography capitalizes the widely varied scenes and their varied colour for a pictorial tour de force, to which the sets of Lyle Wheeler and Edward Boyle and the costumes of Omar Kiam are a fine contribution. Max Steiner’s musical score is unobtrusively and a total delight. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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