star power

Why the many versions of ‘A Star Is Born’ might just be the gayest films of all time

From Lady Gaga’s icon status, to Bradley Cooper’s hotness (and prior gay performances in movies such as Wet Hot American Summer), to the drag queens like Willam who feature prominently in the opening scenes, there are lots of reasons to be excited about A Star Is Born.

But what many may not know is that the new A Star Is Born is just the latest in a long line of versions of the same story, each with their own particular significance to us LGBTs. Check out the list below to see the long, winding journey that brought us to the latest film.

A Star is Born is in theaters October 5.

1. What Price, Hollywood? (1932)

What Price, Hollywood? was produced right before the implementation of the Hays Code in the early 1930’s, after which films weren’t allowed to explore topics that were deemed “inappropriate” or “controversial” by cultural conservatives, including homosexuality. The film was directed by George Cukor, the prolific gay director who directed Wizard of Oz with Judy Garland, who he would go on to direct in the 1954 version of A Star Is Born (more on that later).

2. A Star Is Born (1937)

One of the first motion pictures shot in Technicolor, it is a loose remake of the 1932 film. It starred Janet Gaynor, who for many years was rumored to be a lesbian. She was married several times, including in 1939 to Gilbert Adrian who was an openly gay costume designer at MGM. Their marriage was often termed what at the time was known as a “lavender marriage.” It also doesn’t hurt that Frederic March was one of the great heartthrobs of the Golden Era; his handsomeness and charisma still shines through to this day.

3. A Star Is Born (1954)

Arguably the “gayest” of all 5 versions, it starred Judy Garland who is considered by many to be the ultimate gay idol- for her role as Dorothy in Wizard of Oz to so many other iconic films for our community, to her untimely death that many credit as sparking the rage that led to the Stonewall Riots. It was directed, as mentioned earlier, by the gay Hollywood powerhouse George Cukor, with music by George Arlen and Ira Gershwin (the writers of many gay musical favorites), and co-starring James Mason (who just happens to be my grandfather!). Mason delivered Judy’s eulogy in New York in June 1969. Lorna Luft, Judy’s daughter, just released a great new book on the making of the film entitled A Star Is Born: Judy Garland & The Film That Got Away.

4. A Star Is Born (1976)

This version is pretty gay as well, if only for one main reason: Barbra Streisand. Judy performed with Barbra on her TV show in 1964, and unknowingly passed the baton to a new generation. Streisand personally shepherded this version from start to finish, and it’s quite different from all the other versions. It’s very over the top melodramatic, which makes it very entertaining to watch, but that doesn’t take away from Barbra’s talent or the fact that Evergreen, one of the main songs from the film, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1977.