Lady Gaga makes the move from pop star to movie star with her new movie A Star Is Born, and given that the singer is drawing major praise for her performance in the film, its title could very well apply to Gaga herself. That's of course not the case, as Gaga plays an aspiring singer named Ally in the film and not herself, but is there some truth to the movie's story? In other words, is A Star Is Born a true story?
The movie is not based on a true story, but is instead a remake of a remake of a remake of a remake of a possible remake... got that? Here's the deal. The new A Star Is Born features director Bradley Cooper as a hard-drinking superstar country singer on the decline who takes an unknown and very talented aspiring singer (Gaga) under his wing and the two fall in love. It's a remake of the 1976 movie of the same name that starred Kris Kristofferson as a hard-drinking rock superstar on the decline who takes an unknown and very talented aspiring singer (Barbra Streisand) under his wing and the two fall in love. So far, so good?
The 1976 version of the film was a remake of a 1954 film that starred Judy Garland and James Mason in the lead roles. The set up was basically the same — Mason's character was a big star on the decline who had turned to booze, while Garland was the unknown who falls for him — though the music style was more big band and show tunes than the later rock and country adaptations. And though this version of the film introduced the musical elements that defined the following two remakes, it's not the first iteration of A Star Is Born.
That distinction goes to the original A Star Is Born, from 1937. The original featured a faded Hollywood actor with a drinking problem (Fredric March) who falls for an aspiring actress (Janet Gaynor) who soon becomes a huge star. The beats of the story are largely the same as other versions of the film, but the stars in question are of the acting variety rather than singers. And while it may seem like that's the start of A Star Is Born's lineage, there's one more movie to which the film's story may owe something.
The 1932 film What Price Hollywood? shared many similarities with — and likely inspired — the later movie A Star Is Born, thanks to its depiction of a an actress' romantic involvement with an alcoholic in the same industry. Both films were produced by David O. Selznick, and the earlier film's story was loosely based on the real life marriage between silent film star Colleen Moore and Hollywood producer John McCormick, who was an alcoholic, according to Turner Classic Movies. So in a distant way, A Star Is Born was actually somewhat rooted in truth.
Although the new A Star Is Born is not based on a true story, it can trace its history through nearly a century of Hollywood productions. And buried deep within that history there actually is a small kernel of a true story.