Before inventions like reality tv and Youtube, Hollywood hopefuls would have to pack up and actually move to Hollywood to have any chance at stardom. With the aid and well wishes from her grandmother, Esther Victoria Blogett (Janet Gaynor) ventures to Hollywood, convinced that she can become a great actress. Things look pretty bleak when she’s told over and over again that there’s no work, not even as an extra. With the help of an out of work director, Danny (Andy Devine), she gets a job as a waitress serving orderves at parties for celebrities. She sees this as a chance to act in front of directors, a pretty funny scene. When the famous actor, Norman Maine (Fredric March) gets drunk at the party, he takes an interest in Esther and whisks her away from her waitress job. At first, it’s not quite clear whether Norman is looking for a new actress or a girlfriend, but he ends up with both. He gets Esther her first leading role and she’s an instant star. The problem is that she is getting all the limelight while Norman is slowly being forgotten. After they marry, this problem only grows and eventually Norman turns back to the bottle.
Talk about your Hollywood drama, it’s all here. Actors beat up photographers, marriages are performed in secret, there’s even an Academy Awards night gone horribly wrong. In one scene, Esther’s managers figure out a new name for her: Vicki Lester. It sounds much more cute and appealing than anything beginning with Esther. It seems that much of the plot was taken right out of the private lives of movie stars, and it works quite well.
Both Janet Gaynor and Fredric March shine and were nominated in their respected lead acting categories. Gaynor rises from a hopeful girl in North Dakota with such elegance and sincerity we believe every sweet smile on her face. March is wonderful as a drunk who tries to shape up, we really believe he can clean up for Esther. The love between the two characters is there, we never doubt their chemistry, we just feel sorry for Esther more as the film progresses.
My favorite scene is far from Hollywood, where the couple are driving around with a trailer in tow on their honeymoon. Esther is in the trailer trying to fix a dinner, with everything bouncing around her and suddenly, something happens to the truck Norman is driving. It’s when they’re broke down, dishes all over the trailer, Norman trying to fit into the tiny shower and Esther is wiping the dirt off a steak that they feel like real people. The whole scene is comical, fun and very humanizing.
This is a great film for anyone aspiring to go into the movies, a whole lot has changed since the 30’s. And for those of you who fear black and white movies, this is the very first film nominated for Best Picture to be in full color. Celebrate!
“Some day you won’t laugh at me! I’m going out and have a real life! I’m gonna be somebody!”