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“A Star Is Born,” again.

“A Star Is Born,” again. (photo)

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There are some properties destined to be eternally refilmed: certain Shakespeare plays, Jane Austen, Dickens, and so on. Then there are the less likely and yet equally persistent sources. One, oddly, is “A Star Is Born,” currently due for its fifth incarnation. The archetypal tale of a alcoholic star on his way down and the ingenue he elevates who eclipses him is due, once more, this time with Russell Crowe and Beyoncé. Guess who’s who.

“A Star Is Born” originated as 1932’s “What Price Hollywood.” Long before “Sunset Boulevard,” David O. Selznick thought it would be an excellent idea to do one of the first Hollywood-as-savage-jungle movies. The inspiration came from long-forgotten silent movie star Colleen Moore and her alcoholic producer husband John McCormick; other heavy drinkers were added into the mix, and Selznick considered the resulting film “95% accurate,” so much so he toyed with calling it “The Truth About Hollywood.”

The film was subsequently remade in 1937 as “A Star Is Born” with a plot so close RKO almost sued for plagiarism, then backed off. The project then resurfaced as the mostly-definitive 1954 Judy Garland version, and once more as a tribute to Barbra Streisand’s ego in 1976, opposite Kris Kristofferson. Over the course of the four remakes, the milieu kept changing with the times: from two straight movies about Hollywood to Garland’s movie about movie musicals and finally straight-up to the world of music.

What’s interesting about the persistence of the project are the eerie meta aspects that keep creeping in. In the 1932 version, the alcoholic part was played by Lowell Sherman (once John Barrymore’s brother-in-law, he knew what he was playing), who would die three years later of pneumonia. In 1937, there was a switch: the ingenue was played by former silent queen Janet Gaynor, a year away from effectively ending her career, and the alcoholic was Fredric March, who was on the up and up.

The 1954 version kicked it up a notch: Judy Garland really was in all kinds of trouble, and she wouldn’t work in a movie again til 1961, while James Mason was settling into a comfortable career of being supercilious on a regular basis. In 1976, Streisand was holding steady at the peak of her career, while Kris Kristofferson’s musical career was soon to start heading downhill — he was about to waste years of his life on the flop of “Heaven’s Gate.” “A Star Is Born” is like the film-world equivalent of staging “Macbeth.”

02042010_streisand.jpgSome of the meta-casting that was planned but never happened is even more chilling. Clara Bow was originally going to be in “What Price Hollywood?,” but her own alcoholism left her too heavy (just like Garland’s weight fluctuations during her own version). And Streisand had the bone-chilling idea that Elvis himself should be the downward-spiral star to play opposite her; Colonel Tom Parker broke that one up for petty reasons.

So don’t fool yourself: whoever had the bright idea of casting Crowe as a star on the way down opposite Beyonce knows precisely what they’re doing. The question is more like “why”; part of the sensation of those earlier films was showing a public much less savvy about the inner mechanisms of the entertainment industries what was going on in there. Everyone knows everything now.

[Photo: “A Star Is Born,” Warner Bros., 1954; “A Star Is Born,” Warner Bros., 1976]


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…


A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.