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Judy, Babs, Gaga: A Star Is Born As the Diva's Rite of Passage

Judy, Babs, Gaga: A Star Is Born As the Diva's Rite of Passage

a gaga is born
Warner Bros./FX

Lady Gaga is stepping into the shoes of some legendary gay icons that came before her in a remake of the ultimate tale of fame and tragedy, A Star Is Born

Lady Gaga will be the latest diva to dive into the choppy waters of A Star Is Born, Hollywood's quintessential ode to the dark side of fame. The story goes as follows: a talented ingenue's star ascends as her husband's declines precipitously. It's been filmed in one iteration of another for 80 years and it seems every generation gets its own version.

Without a doubt, Judy Garland's 1954 A Star Is Born, directed by noted gay George Cukor, is the best of the lot, even after it was butchered by Warner Bros. The original cut of the film ran 196 minutes, and though test audiences loved it, Cukor and editor Folmar Blangsted trimmed it to 184 minutes for theatrical release, which still garnered great reviews. But the studio, still unsatisfied, made further cuts without Cukor's knowledge, butchering it to 154 minutes, leaving out two musical numbers and crucial dramatic scenes. Cukor called the final version "very painful" to watch.


In an attempt to right that egregious wrong, a reconstructed, 176-minute cut, including stills replacing lost footage, was released in 1983.

But even Garland's Star Is Born was a remake of the 1937 movie of the same name, proving that Hollywood has approximately three original ideas. And that it loves movies about itself. Streisand changed things up for her Star, moving the action from film to music. Elvis Presley was strongly considered for her co-star, but Elvis wanted top billing and a lot of money so, since the only star of a Babs Streisand production is Babs Streisand, Kris Kristofferson got the part.

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This type of behind-the-scenes entertainment drama has proved popular with many a multi-hyphenate diva--Diana Ross in Lady Sings the Blues, Whitney Houston in The Bodyguard...Mariah Carey in Glitter. Beyonce, cutting her teeth in similar fare like Cadillac Records and Dreamgirls, was attached to a Star Is Born remake for years, with Clint Eastwood set at one point to direct. In Eastwood's balled fists he calls hands, Bey could finally have gotten that elusive Academy Award she's made no secret of wanting. After all, that's part of A Star Is Born's enduring appeal--the movie is classic Oscar-bait.

Garland's brilliant tour de force performance was robbed of Best Actress--Grace Kelly in The Country Girl, my ass--while Babs won her second Oscar for her remake, though not for acting: her original song "Evergreen" proved soft as an easy chair for Academy voters. The Bodyguard garnered two musical nominations, Diana Ross was nominated for Best Actress for Lady, and Dreamgirls netted a bunch of noms, winning one for Jennifer Hudson. As we all know Gaga is salivating for an EGOT after being shut out by Sam Smith earlier this year, this could be her chance.

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Or, this could be a disaster. Lady Gaga's A Star is Born has the potential to be brilliantly campy, brilliantly awful, or maybe--and this is a big maybe--just plain brilliant. She's already proven that she's got acting chops, to the tune of a Golden Globe, and if I know Gaga (and I don't) she's going to go all out for this role. If/when she pulls out a Babs '70s afro wig, however, I'm going to start a standing ovation in the theater.

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