Although not the first film which has attempted to capitalize the international reputation of Hollywood, it is unquestionably the most effective one yet made. The highly commendable results are achieved with a minimum of satiric hokum and a maximum of honest story telling.
Film is photographed throughout in Technicolor. Several scenes impress on sheer beauty and composition – a view of the California desert backed by snow-capped mountains, a garden landscape with swans in the foreground, a Pacific sunset towards which the broken screen idol swims to his tragic death. Colors of the interiors are soft and subdued.
Story [by William A. Wellman, Robert Carson] relates the experiences of a young girl who rises to cinema fame while her husband, having touched the heights, is on a swift descent. Love is the heroine; alcohol, the villain.
Janet Gaynor gives to her role, the small town girl who makes good, a characterization of sustained loveliness. She is equally as good in the comedy passages.
The same, without reservation, may be said for Fredric March and the manner in which he plays the passe star, Norman Maine. He creates a finely drawn portrait of weakness without viciousness, a demoralization which reminds of George Hurstwood in Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie.
Others in the cast also are excellent, including Adolphe Menjou, who plays a producer; Lionel Stander, as a studio publicity man; Andy Devine, an assistant director, and May Robson.
1937: Best Original Story, Special Award (color cinematography).
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Fredric March), Actress (Janet Gaynor), Screenplay, Assistant Director (Eric Stacey)