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Esther keeps singing, and John Norman never looked so good

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Buzz Publications
November 17, 2006


A Star is Born has been made by three generations of Hollywood filmmakers. First in 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Fredrick March, and then in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson in 1976. All of them are cheesy, but the Streisand oddity is the cheesiest.

Recently released on DVD, Streisand's A Star is Born was co-produced by Streisand and then partner Jon Peters with Barwood Films, and Warner Brothers. Nominated for four Academy Awards, Evergreen, co-written by Streisand and Paul Williams, won for Best Song.

Recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, A Star is Born also won 5 Golden Globe Awards,including best motion picture (musical or comedy), Best Actor and Actress for Kristofferson and Streisand, Best Score, and Best Original song for Evergreen.

A cautionary tale about the dangers of mixing alcohol with celebrity, this film doesn't age well if taken seriously. Lacking focus and depth, 30 years old later, this Streisand "vehicle" can only be considered a camp classic. Babs singing makes it a musical. Period costuming makes it a comedy. Gary Busey plays Gary Busey, and Kris Kristofferson never looked better.

A box office success, this pop confection is a retelling of a classic story of the dark side of success and celebrity, and how ego can destroy the best careers. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll, it's all there, hanging out 70's style. Oh, and there is absolutely no screen chemistry between the two stars, on my last viewing, knowing what I know now, I feel for Mr. Kristofferson.

Open shirt, shaggy hair, killer tan, and haunted blue eyes, his John Norman Howard is a tragic hero, as you can see the unmet expectations playing across his performance. Kristofferson makes this film watchable, on several levels.

A perfect example of life imitating art A Star is Born will be viewed by film historians as a turning point of a Streisand's career, as it is her first attempt at producing. Good but not great, entertaining but not engaging, A Star is Born '76 is best enjoyed as a time capsule, rather than a well made film.

A must have for anyone claiming to be a Streisand fan, the DVD includes commentary by Barbra Streisand's, additional scenes (oh goody!), wardrobe tests, and a trailer gallery. The soundtrack was remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1. It's a shame the DVD doesn't include commentary from Director Frank Pierson, co-producer Jon Peters, and Mr. Kristofferson.

Another remake of A Star is Born is 10 years overdue. Until it is, and some brave Diva decides to tackle the role of Esther Blodgett, I suggest people see the 1945 remake, as it is recognized by the Library of Congress as culturally significant, and selected for preservation as part of the National film registry. Garland's Oscar nominated performance in this film classic is considered to be the best work of her legendary career.

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