December 14, 2018

The Reason Hollywood Loves “A Star is Born”

“In the spring of 1937, Louis B. Mayer, the gimlet-eyed ruler of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (and, at the time, the highest paid man in America) had special reason to be proud of his protean son-in-law David O. Selznick, the husband of his favorite daughter, Irene. Selznick had just produced a compelling motion picture about the doomed romance of an unknown performer and the fading, alcoholic matinee idol who makes her a star.

“Did you see what he did with A Star Is Born?” Mayer asked of Selznick, who until 18 months earlier had worked for his father-in-law. “He took that story—if it came to me, I’d say, ‘Make it or don’t make it, what do I care; it’s been done 40 times anyway’—he took that story and made a tremendous picture out of it.”

Indeed, just five years prior, Selznick himself had produced the first version of what was essentially the same tale, and had called it What Price Hollywood? For more than 80 years—right up to this month’s premiere of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s latest remake—A Star Is Born has been the urtext, the film à clef in which Hollywood has sought to explain (and by extension to justify) itself—to itself, and to the world.”

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