Liz Smith: Will A ‘Star’ Be Born — Again?!

courtesy U.S. Marines

And more from our Liz: Is Dubai sinking?…. David Geffen honored

“DO YOU think I’m slipping?”

“Can you take it?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

“The tense is wrong. You’re not slipping. You’ve slipped.”

* * *

THE ABOVE is an exchange between Fredric March as Norman Maine and Adolphe Menjou as press rep Oliver Niles in the 1937 version of “A Star Is Born.” This movie also starred Janet Gaynor as the young innocent actress who loves alcoholic Maine, but is helpless to aid him as her career rises and his free falls.

“A Star is Born” would be remade twice again — with Judy Garland and James Mason in 1954, and in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as the unhappy couple. (We should also count 1933’s “What Price Hollywood?” which is where the basic plot began.)

Now, you’d think four versions of one story would be enough. But how wrong you are. There’s always a new way to tell a tale, especially one of glamorous Tinsel Town dissipation. (We love to watch the rich and famous suffer. That’s why so many people enjoyed Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes.)

So we should not be too surprised to hear that there’s another “Star Is Born” in the works. This time the young woman on the rise is sexy, soulful Beyonce. No word yet on who might play her sodden lover/mentor (Denzel Washington?) or the pivotal role of the heartless, fed-up, PR guy (Kevin Spacey?) But get this as director: Clint Eastwood. Clint is very interested and is already “in talks.”

“A Star is Born” is an extremely dark take on Hollywood, and the last two versions — by Garland and Streisand — were epic in length and concept. Eastwood’s directorial efforts are dark (grim, actually) and hours and hours long. If this “ASIB” comes to pass, it should be one hell of a movie! I don’t know if it will be a good movie, but fascinating for sure.

* * *

P.S. I know you didn’t ask, but you might wonder which of the versions of “ASIB” I consider the “best?” Well, they all have their good points, and their bad. But despite its age and relative brevity, I give the nod to the ’37 version with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. Although Gaynor is the least obviously charismatic — it’s difficult to gauge why she becomes such a great star — that fuzzy quality works within the basic story of a girl swept off her feet by an older man who convinces her she “has that little something extra” and helps turn her into a movie queen. (Or a hot rock singer, as per Barbra and Kris.)

The Misses Garland and Streisand were ridiculously talented, and it hardly makes sense they’d be banging around Hollywood, unknown until Mr. Big Drunk comes along. Judy and Barbra throw their versions off-kilter, though James Mason matches Miss Garland’s intensity in his tragic descent. (The less said about what goes on between Barbra and Kris, the better.)

Beyonce? She’s got a lot of pizzazz herself. Again, it will be difficult to suspend disbelief as soon as she opens her mouth to sing. And she’s gorgeous, too. (She will be hands down the most beautiful “Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester”—though I anticipate a change in the heroine’s name.) But with Clint Eastwood at the helm, all bets are off. This will be worth waiting for — the La La Land version of “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Even though some people — like George Lucas — still think the world is going to end next year and we shouldn’t look too far ahead.

* * *

Mr. Lucas now says he was just kidding when he referred to the Mayan Prophecy. But many agree with this astrological prediction of doom.

And some of them are in Dubai where the famous “islands” –  representing the countries of the globe – are now reported to be sinking into the sea. These creations with hotels and villas, reachable only by yacht or motorboat, are eroding according to evidence put before a property tribunal. Seventy per cent of these “islands” have been bought as luxury homes but only one of them, representing Greenland, is actually inhabited. It is owned by the ruler of Dubai.

Spokespersons, of course, deny that the islands are sinking.

* * *

I RECEIVED this week a magnificent little black box and it took me a while to get into it, thinking perhaps it contained caviar or at least a diamond bracelet. Inside was a lovely gold-embossed on-black invitation from The Recording Academy, which is celebrating its 2011 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons on February 13th. The honoree? David Geffen. Nobody has done more for international charity and nobody deserves it more than David!

29 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Sometimes the remakes of classic films become progressively worse. No doubt that will be the case with the next “A Star is Born.” 

    I think if Clint Eastwood wants to make remakes of films, he should start with his own. 

  2. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Each remake does become progressively worse.  I’d tip who hat to “What Price Hollywood,” which was nicely directed by George Cukor. Alas, he went on to over-direct the Garland version.   Still, it’s a fascinating basic story, and I’m always eager to see what a new generation does with it.  I just hope Rob Marshall doesn’t direct it.  Enough with his style!

  3. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    P.S.  I know Clint E. is supposed to direct.  But I see this this poject–which Beyonce has been interested in for several years–progressing without Eastwood.  Marshall is the next logical choice, but we’ve see all his tricks—even in movies he didn’t direct, like “Burlesque.”  I’d prefer Scorsese.

  4. avatar rick gould says:

    Personally, this is one story I’ve felt Hollywood has never totally gotten right. It could stand a remake, but never seems to get a great one.
    Mr. wOw, funny you should mention Scorsese, who directed “New York, New York,” which starred Garland’s daughter Liza, about the same time as Streisand’s ridiculous version of “Star” came out.
    Frankly, I don’t think this story is Eastwood’s forte…
    They were going to have Whitney Houston do this in the early 90s, I recall, but unfortunately, she’s lived her own version of this story.

  5. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    To me, Beyonce is just too generic to play the role of Ester. The role requires a great transformation through-out the film, and I think of Beyonce (as an actress), one dimensional. Judy was the best. Timing is everything and Judy took the role at the correct time in her career. Beyonce is thought of as a singer, and she is a bit over exposed (TV commercials). A remake would be a flop. After all, she couldn’t carry “Dream Girls” as a lead role. That should tell you something.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Richard…Judy should have made it when she was in her reasonably twenties, not her already-ravaged 30′s.  And I hated the way Cukor directed Judy.  She was such a great natural actress, but she tried too hard in “Star.” 
      I know I fly in face of gazillions of Judy fans.  Yeah, she sure should have won the Oscar over Miss Grace Kelly, but her “Star” turn is still rather over-done.

  6. avatar rick gould says:

    Maybe they should get Lady Gaga for this go-round!

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick….ehhhhh….but that’s just my age showing.  I don’t get her.  She’d be the least physically attractive Vicki/Esther, anyway.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Oh, please. Beyonce should pay her dues finally by playing Etta James. Lypsynching Etta James of course. “At last…”

      • avatar Count Snarkula says:

        She already played Etta in the marginal ‘Cadillac Records’.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Oh. I forgot.  Obviously not an unforgettable performance.  Maybe she should try again? With a little humility. Maybe a little respect?

        That really was the defining moment for me with regard to Barack Obama. A nutty fundamentalist minister who believes you “pray the gay out” is fine. But not Etta James?  Please.

  7. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Beyonce is not a very good actor, and thank God for her youth and beauty.  She so much wants an Oscar.  An African American taking on a role strongly associated with Caucasions might kick in Hollywood guilt come awards time.  A better project might be the life of the late, tragic, gifted, beautiful Phyllis Hyman.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      If Hollywood was capable of emotion, particularly guilt, Doris Day would have had her Oscar a long, long time ago.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Baby…Doris Day!  The great underrated talent of all Hollywood times, in my humble opinion.  She got screwed by a few silly comedies and changing times. 

        I hate the Academy for not honoring her.

  8. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Personally, I would much rather see this with Jennifer Hudson.

  9. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Eastwood is the perfect choice to direct a new ASIB. All of his directorial efforts are about an older man’s obsession with the subject of death. War and death (Flag of Our Father), Boxing and death (Million Dollar Baby), Aging and death  (Grand Torino), Kidnapping and death (Changeling). His obsession with death, death, death makes his moves too predictable.

  10. avatar Maggie W says:

    I agree with Jay.  For the longest time, I did not want to see The Changeling...assuming Angelina would be starring as Angelina in vintage clothing.  But Eastwood and Angelina smoothly moved past Angelina and into the Christine character and the horror of a story based on fact.  In Gran Torino he surrounded himself with unknown actors to downplay his mega presence . In short order, there was not Eastwood but an old Korean War soldier turned snarling curmudgeon.

    I found Streisand and Kristofferson to be sappy in ASIB.  It would be interesting to see how Eastwood works the whole Beyonce package.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Ah, Maggie, ASIB with Steisand was saccharine. I don’t I will ever forgive her for mangling The Prince of Tides. Lowenstein was supposed to be a raven-haired, sloe-eyed smouldering, repressed, agonized beauty…not…Barbra. The women in Tides; Lila, Savannah, Lowenstein and Sally, are each unique beauties off-set against each other with the tormented Tom Wingo turning endlessly at their center. She manipulated the book into garbage to make a film vehicle for herself. Blargh.
       
      And Beyonce in ASIB? No. And no. She’d have to have her personal hair-blowing effects fan on the set with her at all times. She’s a diva. I’m not certain at this point who would work…not that I’m that vested in the results. I saw the Streisand version with an insistent female friend who got the weepies (I needed a barf bag), and the Garland version on late-night TV while baby-sitting my younger sisters.  But young actors who can do anything more challenging than look good are awfully rare of late…

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Do I dare say it? I cannot think of one film that Barbra Streisand has made in which she was not playing Barbra Streisand the Star except for this delightful series of films in which she plays Rozlyn Focker. 

        Perhaps that is why I love her as Rozlyn Focker so much. It’s Barbra Streisand playing Barbra Streisand.  The real one.

  11. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    To be honest, I’d rather Eastwood (or Martin Scorsese) go back to the straight dramatic tale.  Who needs music to interrupt the narrative? Without the need to tune it up, there’s a vast array of good young actresses out there to play the role…Natalie Portman…Selena Gomez (she’s very young and Disney but she’s terrif!)…Scarlett Johansson…Dakota Fanning…Michelle Williams…

    Alas, tho “times have changed” with the exception of Halle Berry and Beyonce, there are no big box office names among African American actresses.  I really would like to see the story from that point of view.  Or, how about a Latina or an Asian “Vicki Lester?”   Lots of new and exciting ways to go on this tale, and none of them have to be accompanied by “The Man that Got Away” or “Evergreen.” 

    • avatar rick gould says:

      In the past, there had been talk of doing “Star” with the female lead being the star on the skids and the male the star on the ascent…
      Maybe Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber, so they can hit today’s audience ;)
      By the way, I was kidding about Gaga…

    • avatar Lourdes Villarreal says:

      Mr. Wow, Beyonce may be a big box office name in America, but not worldwide. On the other hand, you can name Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland in almost every corner of the planet, and they will be vastly recognized. My own teenage sons worship Judy Garland because “The Wizard of Oz” is one of their favorite movies, but will hardly know who Beyonce is if I don’t tell them she’s the hot lady from Steve Martin’s “The Pink Panther”.
      To me, Beyonce is an overrated singer with forgettable tunes, still far away from the (well deserved) diva status of Barbra and Judy. If somebody ever dares to remake ASIB with Beyonce (specially Clint Eastwood!), I’ll take that as a signal that the seventh seal has broken, and it’s the beginning of the End of Times.

      • avatar Lourdes Villarreal says:

        …sorry, it must be “sign” instead of “signal”. This happens when a foreigner tries to be funny in English, but doesn’t revise what she writes thoroughly enough…

  12. avatar annee says:

    Well everybody you’ve done it again.  So much vitriol and energy wasted on something you have not an iota  of anything to do with.  If Clint wants to do ASIB anyway, anyhow with anyone he will. He has been one or two of the most powerful persons in the industry for many years, (and it’s been unbroken)  Put your envy someplace and maybe that energy will make you a better person.  I first met Clint almost 60 years ago and I know of what I speak
     

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Mmm, annee, for someone talking about proper expenditure of energy you certainly just wasted a spectacular amount telling everyone else how to think and what to say. Which I would suppose is on the order of, “When I want your opinion, I’ll tell you what it is!”.
       
      There was no vitriol (Sigh. At least you didn’t say, “hate”) in any of the comments. Just opinion. Regarding films and actors and directing. Which isn’t important enough to work up vitriol about in most individual’s lives (except, apparently yours, though that might just be Number One Fan Righteous Indignation). And I don’t think anyone is…envious. Of what, precisely? Because we’re not stars? O, annee, not everyone even wants that out of life, quite the opposite in fact. And we are allowed our opinions, despite our status as mere mortals, instead of celestial objects.

  13. avatar Rho says:

    Not that it matters to anyone, I really do not want to see a remake.  The two are great.  Cannot be topped.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rho…the great thing is you don’t have to see the remake.  Especially not for $10 a pop.