A Star is Born
Opened December 19, 1976
A Star is Born was Streisand's most successful film at the box office, grossing an estimated $80 million dollars. A Star is Born presented a sexy, modern version of the Streisand persona, allowed her to sing on screen, and gave her unprecedented control behind the camera.
The film was also a very controversial one for Streisand because of industry gossip about behind-the-scenes disagreements.
In 2003, James Lipton asked Streisand (on Inside the Actors Studio) what lead her to film a story that had been filmed three times before (What Price Hollywood in 1937, then two more versions with Janet Gaynor in 1937 and Judy Garland in 1954). Streisand responded, “Jon Peters — who didn't know they were filmed three times before!”
Streisand's A Star is Born remake started as a project called Rainbow Road. Below are two articles that explain the process of developing the property, and how Streisand and her boyfriend (and creative partner) Jon Peters became involved:
- New Times, 1975 : Collision on Rainbow Road
- 1976: Streisand Views 'A Star is Born' As Own Love Story
In 1975, Streisand and Peters visited Elvis Presley and his manager Colonel Parker and discussed the posibility of Elvis costarring in the movie.
“I think Elvis Presley really wanted to do [the movie],” Streisand said, “but the Colonel kind-of talked him out of it. Elvis would have been monumental. It's a great pairing. But we also loved Kris and thought he could do it.”
Below: A September 1975 two-page Warner Brothers industry ad touting “A Star is Born.” “The producers plan a series of actual, live concerts which will be filmed and integrated into the movie.”
Kris Kristofferson, Barbra's costar, told a newspaper in 1976:
There were reports that Mick Jagger was going to do it, or Elvis Presley, or Bob Dylan. Barbra kept calling and telling me about the script and singing the songs; she'd carry on for half an hour. At first I was afraid they were going to make the husband the kind of singer you'd find in a Las Vegas lounge. I didn't think that was a good idea, and I told them so. He didn't necessarily have to be a superstar, but he had to be an important attraction. They wanted him to be a drinker, like in the previous versions. That wasn't realistic in today's music world. So it was changed to drugs."
Below: Streisand and Peters prepared the film for production. Streisand did makeup, costume and hair tests in January 1976.
Below: Streisand also tested a blond curly look for the film.
Rupert Holmes started writing some of the musical numbers for the film. He told Barbra Archives, “'Queen Bee' was inspired by her calling me all excited because she had heard about – from a beekeeper; she was trying to get beehives on her ranch in Malibu, and she thought that would be cool – and she heard about how the queen bee rules, and she said 'That’s kinda cool! Why don’t we have that set-up?' And I immediately jumped to the piano and started writing 'Queen Bee.'
“'Everything,' the same thing. When the person sings about 'I want everything,' they’re not greedy. They’re in love – it’s like a kid in a toy store. A kid in a toy store who says 'I want every toy here,' he’s not really being greedy. He’s saying, 'you can’t show me this much and then tell me I can’t have it.'"
[Click the button below to hear an early rehearsal of “Evergreen”]
Holmes eventually only contributed a handful of songs. Paul Williams, Leon Russell, Kenny Loggins and others wrote the music that the Esther and John Norman characters ended up singing in A Star is Born.
Barbra studied guitar before filming began because she wanted to be authentic. Her teacher, Lori Barth of Studio City, California, received some press after the film opened.
"When I went to her house to giver her her first lesson," Barth told the press, "I told her she couldn't play the instrument with such long fingernails, that she'd have to cut them.
"She said she'd never cut her nails so I said, 'Okay, no guitar lessons,' and I left.
"About a month later, her secretary called me and said, 'Barbra's had her manicurist cut her nails and she wants to start guitar lessons right away.'
"Barbra learns very fast. I gave her lessons every week until she got too busy with the shooting schedule of 'A Star is Born.'
"One day when I was giving Barbra a lesson, she asked me to play a few of the songs I've written and she thought they were great. Then she said, 'I'd like to write a song,' and she strummed some cords on her guitar and in a very short time she had a melody. She was so excited.
"Later, Barbra took her composition to her friend Paul Williams, and he wrote the lyrics for it. The song turned out to be 'Evergreen' which she introduced in 'A Star is Born' and it won the Academy Award.
At Streisand's American Film Institute tribute in 2001, Kristofferson reflected:
"Making A Star is Born with Barbra was a challenge I didn't always respond to gracefully. But our hearts were in it, and we did some wonderful work together. And the critics clobbered it. It was great training for Heavens Gate. I think, maybe, the old boys network thought she was an uppity female. I don't know where they got that idea. But it was probably for the same reasons that I respect her: for fighting for what she believes in; and for her fierce dedication to the realization of a dream. It ain't for sissies. I respect that. But I love the little girl I saw in her eyes in the soft scenes, like on the stairway. Thanks Barbra, for everything."
“Star is Born” Cameos
Making cameo appearances in one of the opening scenes of A Star is Born were Barbra's longtime manager Marty Erlichman (below with Gary Busey). “He's so believable,” Barbra said about Marty's cameo, “he comes from this world. He used to do stuff like this for me backstage, I'm sure.”
In the same scene (spotlighted below) was Phil Feldman—CEO of First Artists, the production company that made A Star is Born—in a cameo appearance.
Later, in the recording studio scene that precedes “Evergreen,” Barbra's engineer, Phil Ramone, makes a cameo appearance alongside Gary Busey.
And that's Sally Kirkland playing the photographer at the ranch.
Marta Heflin played Quintin, a spacey reporter who will do anything to get an interview. In press for A Star Is Born, she told reporters that Barbra “was really like a big sister, very helpful and very professional. She was trying to produce, direct and act all at the same time. It's really her movie, her money, and she wanted to have tight control over what was going on.”
“Kris was lovely,” Heflin said about her scenes with Kristofferson in the bedroom and the swimming pool. “I shivered because the heater in the pool was not working. I had to be topless so I asked for a closed set.”
Behind the Scenes
“Ms. Streisand's Clothes From Her Closet ...”
In the credits of A Star Is Born, Barbra received a costume credit: “Ms. Streisand's Clothes from ... her closet.”
(Above) “I designed the dress,” Barbra told In Style Magazine. “I took a couple of my silver and black shawls and draped them. Isn't that cool? Slinky, snaky, shiny. I gave myself a little credit at the end of the movie—it just said, 'Miss Streisand's clothes from her closet.' I was made fun of, but it was the truth!”
Streisand auctioned the Art Deco gown and cape. The auction description of this ensemble read: “Full length gown and cape made of silver and black metal mesh ... It features a geometric design, spaghetti straps, skirt in two layers, gathered at back, slit at left side, undergarment sewn into bodice, lined in velvet at décolletage area, zipper and snap closure at back, together with matching wrap around full length cape featuring short sleeves, body comprised of three sections including two front panels and one back panel, bodice lined in nude chiffon. The stunning ensemble was worn in the film for the scene in which Barbra Streisand as Esther Hoffman wins a Grammy award.”
Above: Streisand played with male/female themes in the film by dressing herself in suits. This suit was also auctioned by Streisand. Its description said:
“Three Piece Suit by Brioni, Personal Wardrobe Three piece grey wool suit by Brioni, size 8, fully lined, jacket having two button closure, two front side slit pockets, shoulder padding, with matching vest having five button closure, two front pockets, together with flat front pants, side pockets, and zipper closure at front. This three piece suit featured prominently in A Star Is Born as Esther Hoffman becomes a star during a stage performance of Woman In The Moon and I Believe In Love.”
Above: “Multicolor sheer chiffon Indian style cape, in two layers, overdress heavily adorned with gold sequins and silver metal thread and plackets of brocade, red velvet ribbon, cape style sleeves, full open V" style neck, under dress in red synthetic blend with spaghetti straps, label inside reading, "Made in England for Giorgio, Beverly Hills" inner dress with zipper closure at rear. Garment worn by Barbra Streisand as Esther Hoffman during a photo shoot scene in the film.”
|CINEMATOGRAPHY (nominee)||Robert Surtees||Oscar (AMPAS)|
|SOUND (nominee)||Robert Knudson, Dan Wallin, Robert Glass, and Tom Overton||Oscar (AMPAS)|
|ORIGINAL SONG (winner)||“Evergreen” — Barbra Streisand & Paul Williams||Oscar (AMPAS)|
|ORIGINAL SONG SCORE & ITS ADAPTATION OR ADAPTATION SCORE (nominee)||Roger Kelleway||Oscar (AMPAS)|
|Best Motion Picture — Musical/Comedy (winner)||A Star is Born||Hollywood Foreign Press Association — Golden Globe Awards|
|Best Motion Picture Actress — Musical/Comedy (winner)||Barbra Streisand||Hollywood Foreign Press Association — Golden Globe Awards|
|Best Original Song (winner)||“Evergreen” — Barbra Streisand & Paul Williams||Hollywood Foreign Press Association — Golden Globe Awards|
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