I usually don’t like remakes. A Star is Born, however, can’t seem to go wrong. 1937 (on TCM two nights ago), 1954, and 1976, I love all versions. Over and over the tragic love story of Esther Blodgett and Norman Maine doesn’t falter, a story for any time, anywhere, and it goes like this: woman falls in love with man, man falls in love with woman, but ultimately man can’t be the man the woman wants or imagines him to be and, still, woman can’t stop loving man. She can’t stop wanting man to be this fictitious man she’s invented, but man can’t change, and we have a problem, Houston.
We grow up with such grandiose visions of love, but imagine those women before us, the Janet Gaynors of 1937, the Judy Garlands of 1954, the Our Mothers of 1958, and, finally, the Barbra Streisands of 1970, though I think Barbra is in a category unto herself. Imagine all these women who grew up in the Golden Age of cinema watching big sweeping spectacles of romance and love on screens for the first time. It was in these dark, opulent caverns like Graumans, The Egyptian, and Pantages where one thing and one thing only became clear: the girl always, ALWAYS meets her prince (or in the case of my mother, a Roy Rodgers fan, her cowboy).
The story of Esther and Norman is one that needs to be told over and over (as if we need reminding). Even now a remake is in the works. Clint Eastwood will direct Beyonce as Esther. I’m imagining a cross between The Bridges of Madison County and Unforgiven. Hmmm. Of course I will give Clint the benefit of the doubt. But who will play the handsome, sweet, haunted, and loving Norman? Who could succeed Frederick March or James Mason? And every time I hear Tom Cruise’s name thrown into the hat, mi cascano le braccia, I lament, something my husband might say. I wish my dad were alive today, in his acting prime, he could have done it. He could have played Norman.