This top shelf Hollywood melodrama is the first incarnation of the story that would go on to be remade twice (with another in the works). It is in many ways the quintessential Hollywood tale, about a young girl from nowhere who goes to Hollywood, catches the eye of its biggest star, and hits the big time just as he begins to lose his popularity. Studio product (produced by David O. Selznick) at its finest.
Average town girl dreams of lalaland and meets love and success at a great cost. A melodrama lightly based on the much more obscure couple formed between rising Hollywood star Barbara Stanwyck and decayed stand up comedian Frank Fay.
From producer David Selznik came this Tinseltown melodrama in its original Dorothy Parker scripted form. Remade twice this overshadowed first outing is quite charming and not as hackneyed as one would have imagined. Janet Gaynor (no traditional Hollywood beauty) rises above cliché in a tender turn and Fredric March captures the fading star quite well. Lionel Stander the fly in the ointment with a grating turn.
This film is amazingly powerful in the way it conveys states of mind or the undercurrent of its sequences through staging. Pay attention to Fredric March listening to Janet Gaynor, while he's in bed, with a somber low key lightning that only reveals his eyes, and the way that shots are inserted in the whole sequence; or when he's told that he's over, and Gaynor is having a photo session in the background.
The studio's top producer as a loving and respectful father figure who cares more about his washed-up actors than about making money - great joke from mr. Selznick! The tragic Norman Maine character is the soul of this film.