September 2014

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14 CINEMONTAGE / SEP-OCT 14 by Kevin Lewis H ollywood's business is the merchandising and recycling of myth — especially the myth of the tragic Hollywood star (Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, etc.) in biopic or documentary form. Fictionalized versions of the Tinseltown tragedy usually follow the model of A Star Is Born, a tale that was originally produced by David O. Selznick in 1932 as What Price Hollywood? Three additional versions, all called A Star Is Born, were filmed — in 1937 as a drama, and in 1954 and 1976 as musicals. In 2012, Clint Eastwood briefly announced another remake starring Beyoncé, which reportedly is still in development. For the 1976 version, executive producer and lead actress Barbra Streisand changed the characters from movie stars to rock stars and sought Presley but settled for Kris Kristofferson as the male lead. The most enduring version, however, is the 1954 version with Garland and James Mason, which continues to reach new audiences on DVD and Blu-ray and celebrates the 60th anniversary of its release in September. The story remains contemporary because fallen and rising stars dominate the news and tabloids to this day. Hollywood itself cherishes the premise of A Star Is Born, in which a self-destructive alcoholic star discovers a new talent, marries her, and commits suicide when he realizes that he will ruin her career and life. The story also fulfills another Hollywood myth: Any girl can be discovered by Hollywood and become an idolized Cinderella, just like Jean Harlow, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Esther Williams and Doris Day. The original title for What Price Hollywood? was The Truth About Hollywood and was based on a story by writer Adela Rogers St. Johns, who received an Oscar nomination — shared with Jane Murfin — for Best Writing, Original Story for the film. Rogers St. Johns reportedly based her plot on the exploits of actress Colleen Moore, her alcoholic husband and producer John McCormick, and the life and death of director Tom Forman, who killed himself after suffering a nervous breakdown. The film, which was directed by George Cukor, concerned a waitress (Constance Bennett) who is molded into a star by an alcoholic director (Lowell Sherman), who later THIS MONTH IN FILM HISTORY A Star Is Reborn, Remade, Remodeled A Star Is Born. Warner Bros./ Photofest

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