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.
35mm, restoration from UCLA archive, rewatched. Any text inevitably would be inferior to every aspect of this film's revolutionary narrative: realism underneath a proto-narrative conception - at the start and end -, immersed in Natalie Kalmus technicolor. Fredric March and Janet Gaynor, two of the more evanescent stars of Hollywood's firmament are in perfect connection, heaven knows Mrs. Norman Maine.
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.
I've seen the 1954 version, but I think I like this more. A solid melodrama about success and surviving in Hollywood that even at its happiest moments has a little melancholy. March's subtle performance is the brightest star, however. He's convincing as a drunk but handles the charming aspects of the role equally well. The scene where he meets Gaynor for the first time is the cutest thing.
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.