A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?

Last time I wrote a very serious post, so time for something a bit lighter I think. Regular followers will know my mum is currently in hospital. She is recovering well however and is quite enjoying being cared for I think, so a bit of respite for me. Having had a lot more time to myself over the last few weeks I’ve finally been able to catch up with friends who have been sadly neglected of late. Some of these friends have helped me make full use of the benefits attached to my new Student ID card, by joining me on a fair few trips to the local cinema.

Over the last few weeks I have been to see King of Thieves, the true story of the Hatton Garden jewellery heist, The Seagull based on the Anton Chekov play of the same name and The Escape about a stay-at-home mum who seemingly has it all, but is desperately unhappy. On top of that, DD has started working at our local theatre, so courtesy of the “comps” she gets as a perk of the job we also caught a play, a good old fashioned whodunnit in the form of The Case Of The Frightened Lady which seems to be touring the country at the moment. Our blogging buddy Chris over at Movies and Songs 365 would no doubt now write a pretty good review for each of the above but as that’s not really this blog’s raison d’être, I’ll just say that I enjoyed all four for different reasons: a) secret admiration for the Hatton Garden “Over The Hill Mob”; b) an insight into the complex lives of a rich family of writers and actors in pre-revolution Russia; c) sympathy for the woman (excellently played by Gemma Arterton) whose only means of survival was to escape the role she had found herself in, and finally; d) a bit of a throw-back to the entertainment of a bygone age (and none of us actually correctly identified whodunnit, so quite a good puzzler).

This week, the third remake of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga was released in cinemas in the UK. The original film of the same name was made in 1937, one I am somewhat unfamiliar with. I am very familiar however with the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as films from this era used to be shown regularly on telly when I was growing up. I lapped them up and at age 12 could probably have appeared on Mastermind citing The Golden Age of Hollywood as my specialist subject. Much of that knowledge has since left me I’m afraid, replaced with music trivia and the essential but boring work-related stuff we accumulate along the way, but watching the newly released version this week, brought the story all back. Here is a clip showing Judy Garland perform The Man That Got Away, probably the most memorable song from the 1954 version.

This new version stuck to the original storyline pretty much like glue, simply updating each scene for the 21st century. There were stadiums, more guitars, the songs were of a rock persuasion, the bars had drag acts and the clothes were a bit grungier, but other than that it’s a timeless tale of “boy meets girl”, with the backdrop of one career on the way up and the other on the way down. I won’t offer up a spoiler by mentioning which is which, because ahead of the film starting to roll the other night, I inadvertently gave the plotline away to the woman sitting next to me, having assumed everyone already knew the story. I apologised and tried to excuse myself by saying the clue is in the title, A Star Is Born, but she still seemed a bit piqued.

Back in 1954, the star in the ascendance was played by Judy Garland. In 2018, that same role was played by Lady Gaga (oops, spoiled it anyway). I must admit, she was barely recognisable at the start of the film, appearing without her trademark heavy makeup and extrovert clothing. This was Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta in the raw without any of the trappings of the Haus of Gaga. Much has been made of the fact that first-time director Bradley Cooper wanted her to audition for the role make-up free, and ahead of her performance produced a few wipes for her to remove it, to ensure authenticity. The irony of course is that the real, or authentic Gaga, is the one with all the stage make-up and costume but hey, it was the unreal Gaga he wanted for the role.

I did enjoy the film despite pretty much knowing (unlike the woman beside me) how each scene would play out and both Bradley and Gaga put in stellar performances. I did expect there to be more standout songs however, as after leaving the cinema I didn’t have any earworms and couldn’t actually remember much of anything included. It seems the first song released as a single was Shallow which I thought was called Shiloh in the film (must have been their accents), but now it makes sense. An actor I did think quite a lot about after leaving the cinema was the lovely Sam Elliot who played lead character Jackson Maine’s long-suffering brother in the movie. If you ever decided to chuck it all in, and head off to live on a ranch in Wyoming, he always looks and sounds as if he would be your man. He would be mine anyway, so hands off!

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The lovely Sam Elliot

But all of this is of course building up to only one thing, delving into the archives to reminisce about the 1976 version of A Star Is Born starring Kris Kristofferson (be still my beating heart) and Barbra StreisandAnyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other. Lots of reasons for that of course (time spent immersing yourself in the world of music as an angst-ridden teenager being one of them), and possibly an idea for a future post, but this clip of Love Theme from “A Star Is Born” (Evergreen) still gives me the collywobbles. The song appeared in the UK Singles Chart in April 1977 and came along just as I was in the midst of my first big (but ultimately highly unsuitable) romance.

Evergreen by Barbra Streisand:

Barbra Streisand has appeared on these pages before as I’m a big fan. Just like Judy and Gaga she is certainly not a conventional beauty, but a great beauty all the same so perfect for the female lead in A Star Is Born.

I often share material from some of the old magazines I still have in my possession dating back from the 1970s. Before I sign off here are a few pages from the April 1977 edition of Words magazine where every month the lyrics to the “top pop songs” of the day were listed. In this edition, A Star Is Born is featured both on the back page and on the Studio Scene and Heard page (hmm…) where current film releases were reviewed. The lyrics to Evergreen also appeared on page 2 along with Knowing Me, Knowing You by ABBA (not Alan Partridge) and Pearl’s A Singer by Elkie Brooks. If you want to have a try, without googling, how many of the other songs would you be able to identify, and attach to an artist? Many of them weren’t big hits, but some were, although scarily over 41 years ago.

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As for me, I’m not sure how many cinema visits I might be able to fit in for some time, as there is to be a meeting on Monday to discuss my mum’s discharge plan. We actually sold the idea to her last week that a care home might be the best idea, but having been to see a few over the last couple of days I have now backtracked. She needs company and stimulation more than anything, as well as being looked after, but despite the glossy brochures and the promises of fun, fun, fun…, we didn’t see much of that at all. Instead it was all empty dayrooms and very elderly people slumped in wheelchairs, mostly asleep. We kind of need a half-way house but if they do exist, they are elusive indeed. Back to being a carer for a while I think but maybe that would be the kindest thing to do. I will no doubt return with updates (but possibly no more film reviews for a wee while).

Until next time….

Evergreen Lyrics
(Song by Barbra Streisand/Paul Williams)

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I have found with you
Like a rose under the April snow
I was always certain love would grow
Love ageless and evergreen
Seldom seen by two
You and I will
make each night the first
Everyday a beginning
Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed
They warm and excite us
‘Cause we have the brightest love
Two lights that shine as one Morning glory and midnight sun
Time… we’ve learned to sail above
Time… won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen…

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

19 thoughts on “A Star is Born: Judy, Gaga or Barbra?”

  1. My wife and I went to see ‘An Inspector Calls’. As part of the conversation up the theatre steps she said that she did not realise that the Inspector was … (oh hang on, perhaps you, like me *up until that moment* did not know the story). Almost as bad as when my brother in law came in at the the start of West Side Story on TV and said … oops there I go again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s easily done though isn’t it? This having been the third remake I didn’t think anyone (of roughly my age) wouldn’t have known the plotline – Oh well, done now.

      I also saw An Inspector Calls at our local theatre but fortunately the big reveal was not spoiled for me. It starred Nigel Davenport and the other guy who was also in Howard’s Way (a long time ago now) – We met them in the bar afterwards.

      Thanks for dropping by.

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    1. Oh yes Neil, I really want to see that film about the other Neil! In view of the fact I’ve been writing a series about Moon Songs over the last year, important I think. Hope you enjoy A Star Is Born – I’m guessing you do know the plot-line but always interesting to see how it’s been updated for a new generation.

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  2. So good to know you’ve had a little respite from things and a chance to get out and about, much deserved. Wishing you lots of luck for the meeting on Monday and whatever decisions you’re able to make over the coming weeks.
    As for the film – I’ve only seen the Babs version but by all accounts Lady Gaga has done a good job.
    Your old pages from magazines always interest me! Love the fact that you can see so obviously how the first image is from a pre-Photoshop era and has been meticulously cut and pasted by hand. We had to do that sort of thing on my ‘Vocational Art’ course back in the early ’80s – a scalpel and a tin of cow gum became indispensable!
    Re. the song titles – well, April ’77 a time when I was really starting to be interested in the charts and a lot of memories should come flooding back seeing these but I can only identify/remember 5 of those titles at first glance! Must run it past Mr SDS and see if he can fill in some blanks. Will be like a continuation of Saturday Snapshots (which I was too late to enter this week) for this dark wet Sunday afternoon.

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    1. I’m not feeling very positive about tomorrow at all actually as only two options, a care home (now not thinking that is suitable) or going home (which would involve an awful lot of work for me). Also, I have a trip with a friend this week booked and paid for (might write about it next weekend) but it has cropped up just the week they want to send my mum home – Yet again, as with the course, the timing could not have been worse!

      I spotted that with the picture – A very basic cut-out overlaid on top of other pictures. It does have a kind of charm to it though as we now know everything is simply photoshopped so very little actual graft has to go in to creating montage type layouts. I have the magazine here beside me so I will print the list of artists in a few days – Not quite as exciting as Saturday Snapshots but worth a try to challenge the old noddle!

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    2. As promised for anyone who is interested here are the songs/artists in the Apr ’77 issue of Words.
      Going In With My Eyes Open – David Soul, Saturday Nite – Earth, Wind and Fire, Moody Blue – Elvis Presley, Standing Up For Love – Three Degrees, The Whistler – Jethro Tull, Crazy Water – Elton John, I’m Your Boogie Man – KC & the Sunshine Band, Look What You’ve Been Missing – The G Band, Fever of Love – Sweet, Sunny – Boney M, You’re My World – Guys ‘n’ Dolls, Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac, Brother – Barry Ryan, Children of the World – Bee Gees, My Kinda Life – Cliff Richard, A Time For Peace – Roger Whittaker, Shaky Ground – Temptations & Dennis Edwards, Groovy Kind Of Love – Les Gray, Southern Nights – Glen Campbell, Dancer – Sherbet, Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone – Smokie, Love Hit Me – Maxine Nightingale, Always Be Your Valentine – John Christie and last but not least, Beautiful You – Colin Blunstone.

      Phew!

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  3. Anyone looking at the “category list” on my sidebar will see that when it comes to decades, I write about songs from the 1970s more than any other.

    Of course, because the 1970s produced more good music than any other.

    By the way, I remember how many people were shocked by the nude people in the movie ad. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know you could just be right – Of course it was also the decade I immersed myself in music so always going to be more important to me but I’m struggling to remember much of what has been around over the last decade and doubt whether we will be listening to many classic 2010’s songs in 50 years time.

      Thanks for dropping by.

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  4. I’ve yet to watch A Star is Born (old or new) so can’t really add much, but thanks for the blog mention. Do they bring back any of the older songs or is it all new music in the 2018 film? To be honest, I’m most interested in watching the 1954 version as you say the soundtrack for the new film lacks standout songs. I anticipate it will do well at the upcoming Oscars though.

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    1. No – it’s always new songs and although the songs from the 2018 version are now warming on me, it took a bit of time.

      Oh yes, why not watch the oldest remake with Judy Garland and James Mason. What I noticed was that in the 1976 version and the 2018 version the clothes etc were not too dissimilar whereas in the 1954 version, made during the Golden Age of Hollywood, the clothes were so smart and the hair and makeup immaculate. Only 20 years earlier than the second remake but from a different lost world – The 1960s definitely changed everything.

      Thanks for dropping by – hopefully your house move is going well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Alyson,
    I can’t remember the last time we went to the cinema, though I know it was years ago. There used to be some great rep cinemas in Toronto, with two in particular fondly remembered: the first showed original prints from the silent era and Hollywood’s “golden age” from the ’30s-’50s and the second primarily focused on foreign films. It’s great that you now receive a discount. Tickets are so expensive here that we’d rather watch something showing on Turner Classic Movies these days.

    I had a good chuckle over your giving away the plot to the woman next to you, but we do sometimes take for granted that everyone already knows the classics, don’t we?

    I’m really sorry to hear that your visits to local care homes were disappointing and you might have to bear the burden yourself. Still, something might turn up that is suitable, so try not to despair. We’re glad to listen and don’t hesitate to email if you really need to vent. I’ve been a visitor to a couple of the government-funded homes in my city and when my time comes, I think I’d rather get lost in the wilderness with the bears and wolves.

    Congratulations to DD for finding a job with perks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Marie – Thanks for dropping by. Yes I’ve loved all my trips to the cinema this last month but only because I thought my mum was being well cared for, which she was, but all about to end I’m afraid. I found it hard to believe that someone of my age came to see the third remake of A Star Is Born but didn’t know the story – Oh well, couldn’t be helped. I’ll try and avoid sitting next to her in the future in case it happens again.

      As for the care homes, I’ve now seen 4, and 2 more to be visited tomorrow. All very depressing but having had the meeting with the hospital staff today, don’t think there is any other option. I’m stressing about it but they can’t discharge her without a plan in place and at the moment I’m holding out for the right care home, that will offer her what she needs. Will have to be strong-willed and not be pushed into doing things in a rushed fashion.

      Hope things are settling down with you? Will email when I find myself with some spare time!

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  6. One of the few perks to my job is that I get to have. Student union card and enjoy cheaper cinema visits as a result. I didn’t know there had been so many different versions of A Star Is Born, I only really knew about the one with Kris & Babs.

    Sam Eliot is a legend. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.

    I wish you well for your mum’s release. I think you’re doing the right think, but I hope you do find some kind of halfway house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve been making full use of the student card whilst I still have it – Depending on how things go, it might well have to be rescinded. So many versions of A Star Is Born and every time the scenes are just updated for a new era – Other than that, pretty much the same every time. Sam Elliot – he’s the man!

      As for the dilemma with my mum, I wouldn’t wish this kind of decision on anyone and I will have to live with the guilt of whatever we do decide. A half-way house is exactly what we need but very hard to find. All very sad really but thanks for the good wishes. Since this blog started I’ve only had one reasonably normal year – Last year was all about the build-up to giving up my job and the aftermath of that, this year it’s all been about trying to care for an elderly parent, badly as it turns out. Hope next year pans out a bit better.

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      1. You’re being much too hard on yourself, Alyson. I rather think that I’m an expert on guilt, so please believe me – it’s not justified here. You are doing everything within your power to see that your Mum will be well cared for before she’s released from hospital.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I must confess I know nothing about the movie – original or remakes – but that doesn’t stop me enjoying someone writing passionately about a film that may or may not have merit and intertwining a story about a loved relative who obviously does.

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