The 1937 original version of "A Star Is Born" is a moving, observant drama about an aging, fading movie matinee idol, Norman Maine, played by Fredric March, who discovers and marries a struggling young actress, Esther Blodgett, portrayed by the lovely Janet Gaynor.
Norman has a chance encounter with Esther at a concert and then again at a fancy Hollywood party where she is moonlighting as a waitress. He is immediately taken by her natural beauty and sweetness. Norman chooses Esther to be his leading lady in his next movie. When the movie is released, Esther, who is renamed Vicki Lester by the studio, becomes an "overnight" star (that is after she suffers many rejections and near poverty prior to her stardom).
"A Star Is Born" provides a realistic view of the crassness and undeniable glamour of Hollywood. And it examines the fleeting nature of stardom which Hollywood creates and then conveniently and cruelly destroys when a star is no longer viable.
Everything about this movie is first rate in particular the perceptive direction by William Wellman, the smart screenplay by Wellman and Robert Carson, and the uniformly excellent performances by an all-star cast.
March and Gaynor are at their very best giving restrained, yet powerful performances. March's skill as an actor makes the demise of Norman Maine, at the behest of a fickle public and a mostly callous Hollywood establishment, heartbreaking to watch. And Esther's quiet strength and unconditional love and support of her adoring, self-destructive husband are subtly and convincingly conveyed by the gifted Miss Gaynor.
Be sure to stock up on tissues before you see this tragic, unforgettable love story because by its conclusion, your tears will be profuse. I guarantee it.