It’s not too often that the fourth time is the charm. But actor and first time film director Bradley Cooper hopes his version of the classic movie, “A Star Is Born,” is indeed a charm in its fourth version.
"It’s the Hollywood tale that the business just won’t let die," says film contributor Ryan Jay. "It seems to reinvent itself and whenever there's a leading lady, or in this case an up-and-coming leading lady with Gaga, it's a showcase for that talent. It has chops for your acting and for your singing ability."
The original film came out in 1937 and starred Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It told the story of a film star who falls in love with an aspiring young actress, helping her find fame as alcoholism sends his life downhill.
The story changed a bit in the 1954 remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason. The leading lady was playing an aspiring actress and singer, allowing Garland to showcase her talents.
"It's sort of a crown jewel," says Jay. "That was among the most proud accomplishments of [Garland's] life, that role. But I think that this version with Judy really punctuates the main problems that all of the films had ... they're all a little too long."
Next came the 1976 version starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
"The Barbara version was the one that turned a corner where the first two were about actresses going to the Oscars, and the next two are about singers going to the Grammy's in their films," notes Jay. "I think it's maybe the weaker of the versions because there's less context and story happening during the concert footage. But Barbara's great — she's the kind of singer you could listen to forever."
The newest version stars Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. "It's another masterpiece," says Jay. "This is the best version of this story just maybe because it's more accessible and more modern. Gaga is phenomenal."
Jay predicts that 2018 version of "A Star Is Born" will at the very least secure nominations for Gaga and Cooper in the Golden Globes and Oscars.
"Their chemistry is phenomenal, it's palpable. You feel them and you're rooting for them and you believe everything about their relationship — so they just hit home runs there," says Jay.
Under Cooper's direction, Jay says the audience is reinvested in what happens to the characters despite their fates being shown to audiences over the years. The intersecting stories have components that audiences still grasp onto, which makes the ending even more crushing.
"The juxtaposition of having your dream come true in one sense but then also having your love life and your life kind of come crashing down around you, those two stories intersecting, those are two things everyone can relate to in one way or another," says Jay. "[Cooper's film is] a great homage and a great through line for all of these."
Film critic Ryan Jay is a nationally syndicated radio host and resident reviewer on Channel 4’s The Morning Blend and Saturday news.