By: Paulanne Simmons
August 13, 2019: A Star is Born, which chronicles the ascent of a rising star and the descent of her mentor whose stardom is fading, has been made into a film four times, in 1937 as a drama starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, and three times as a musical: in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, and in 2018 with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Clearly, it’s a star vehicle.
Although the script for the 1937 film is credited to William A. Wellman, Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell, the drama’s plot is so similar to the 1932 RKO film What Price Hollywood? directed by George Cukor that when David. O. Selznick asked Cukor to direct again, he declined and, in fact, RKO executives did consider filing a plagiarism suit. But Cukor knew a good story when he saw one and went on to direct the 1954 version of the musical.
All these facts, and much more, were revealed to the fortunate audiences who saw A Star Is Born: The Concert at San Francisco’s Feinstein’s at the Nikko on August 9 and 10. For instance, Cary Grant and Stewart Granger both turned Cukor down, and Humphrey Bogart and Frank Sinatra were briefly considered. Finally, James Mason, who, according to host Scott Coulter, “Had nothing else to do,” accepted the role. What’s more, Elvis Presley turned down the 1976 revival because his manager thought the part too closely resembled Presley’s life.
But juicy tidbits aside, the best part of the show was hearing all the glorious songs these shows engendered sung by a group of performers who are at the very top of their game.
The show began with John Boswell at the piano singing Bradley Cooper’s big number “Maybe It’s Time,” followed by Coulter, Carole J. Bufford and Kelli Rabke producing rich harmonies in “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Lady Gaga sang the song as the title “A Sar Is Born” appears, in homage to Garland).
Bufford showed her great versatility singing the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie En Rose” from the 2018 A Star Is Born and Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin’s torch song “The Man that God Away,” which Judy Garland helped turn into the eleventh greatest song in American cinema history, according to the American Film Institute.
Rabke displayed her formidable pipes in “I Believe in Love” from the 1976 A Star Is Born and (in a quick shift of perspective) “I’ll Never Love Again” from the 2018 version. And the ever impressive Coulter broke everyone’s heart with the ever hopeful “Always Remember Us” (2018) and “Evergreen” (1976).
With performers like these singing the songs, A Star Is Born will certainly never die.
A Star Is Born: The Concert will tour Florida this winter.
Feinstein’s At The Nikko
222 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94102 (866) 663-1063
August 9-10, 2019