The original A Star is Born surrounds a young actress named Esther (Janet Gaynor) moving to Hollywood for the first time but struggling to get an acting job. Once she runs into famous actor, Norman Maine (Fredric March), he quickly takes a liking to her. He’s able to get her an acting job, and Esther quickly shoots to stardom and becomes “Vicki Lester.” However, she rises past Maine’s stardom and he starts to spirals down due to alcoholism.
Janet Gaynor and Fredric March do have really nice chemistry in the film. However, we never get to see what makes Esther star worthy or what makes her “Vicki Lester.” I also really liked the relationship Esther had with her grandmother. But I have to admit I liked March’s performance more than Gaynor’s but that’s because I was more invested in his arc of self-destruction.
The story beats in this film aren’t exactly new though they may have been at the time, but even with the four A Star is Born retellings, you have seen some of these beats in other films like a young woman moving to L.A. or New York to get her dream job, struggling at first, then getting it and being exceptional at it.
As said before, the biggest criticism I have is that we don’t get to see what makes Esther so popular. In the film, Norman is angry and frustrated that audiences and critics no longer like or recognize him, and with his relationship with Esther, he recognizes his flaws and decides not hold her back any longer. Though Esther is the “star” in A Star is Born, her arc is lacking, there’s not much real substance for her to do in the film except be more successful and the love interest.
Overall though the film is good, and there’s a reason why it has been done so many times, because the story resonates. I give the 1937 A Star is Born a B+