Hollywood loves an overnight success story. A rags-to-riches tale of a nobody who becomes a somebody has been classic fodder for the entertainment industry dating back almost a century.
“A Star is Born” is one such vehicle that continues, in various guises, to delight audiences with its tale of an aging performer whose fame is waning and the talented nobody whom he meets, helps develop her career, and eventually finds love with.
The current iteration starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper is not just a remake, but a remake of a remake of a remake. And come Sunday evening it will be revealed if the stars and the movie will be honored with an Academy Award thanks to eight nominations in categories including best picture, actor (Cooper), actress (Gaga), supporting actor (Sam Elliott) and best original song (“Shallow”).
Though the film has captivated audiences and grossed more than $400 million at the global box office, historically “A Star is Born” has not fared well when it comes to the Academy Awards, particularly in relation to the best actress category.
The first cinematic version of “A Star is Born” landed in theaters in 1937 starring Frederic March and Janet Gaynor in the Cooper and Gaga roles, respectively. Rather than the music industry of the current version, it was based around a struggling actor in Hollywood. A commercial success, it received seven nominations from the Academy including best picture and nods for its leading stars. It received only one win on the evening, for best writing, original story.
Flash forward almost 20 years and “Star” was back in theaters. This time featuring James Mason and Judy Garland in a tearjerker musical retelling of the same story. Despite production and editing issues the 1954 film was a hit and viewed as a comeback vehicle for Garland whose career had slowed. Nominated for six Academy Awards it was awarded none. At the time Garland was favored to win best actress, but the Oscar ultimately went to Grace Kelly for her role in “The Country Girl.”
Jump ahead another two decades and “Star” returned once again, now set in the music industry and starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. The third highest-grossing film of 1976, it received six nominations from the Academy with a single win. Though Streisand was omitted from the best actress race, the singer did receive an Oscar on the night when she and Paul Williams were handed the best original song award for “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born).”
When the nominations for this year’s ceremony were revealed on Jan. 22, it was Gaga leading the race in the best actress category alongside acting nods for Cooper and Elliott and a berth in the best picture race for the film.
But the certainty of a Gaga win began to fade as the award season wore on. Though nominated for the same category at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, Gaga has remained empty-handed each time the envelope has been opened. At the Oscars she faces ongoing competition from sentimental favorite Glenn Close for her work in “The Wife,” and Olivia Colman in the Queen Anne biopic “The Favourite.”
Six-time nominee Close has never won an Oscar, but took home the Screen Actors Guild Award and the Golden Globe for her work in “The Wife.” Brit Colman, nominated in the same category at each award ceremony, beat out Gaga and Close for the BAFTA.
With the commercial success of “Shallow” amid a nominated race of relatively unknown songs, it’s a reasonably safe bet that Gaga, like Streisand before her, will be called onstage during Sunday’s telecast to accept the best original song award.
But it remains to be seen if Gaga can upend the “Star is Born” track record when it comes to the best actress race. As the continuing success of the tale and lack of best actress award love has proved, history, more often than not, has a tendency to repeat itself.