Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stage Door (1937)


I see that, in addition to your other charms, you have that insolence generated by an inferior upbringing.
 Hmm! Fancy clothes, fancy language and everything!
 Unfortunately, I learned to speak English correctly.
 That won't be of much use to you here. We all talk pig latin. 

            Stage Door is one of the many modern films made in the 1930s. The girls are all hardworking girls with not that much money following their dreams to be on stage in front of an audience. They all live in a boarding house called The Footlight club. At the club they gossip and wisecrack with each other. The ringleader of the wisecrackers is Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers) who also like the other girls has a chip on her shoulder and uses sarcasm as a defense.
            All the girls are out to seek attention from the famous stage manager Tony Powell (Adolphe Menjou). One girl Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick) has gotten his attention and sees him almost every night. Apparently she is the older of the girls living in the club and acts like but she has been around long enough to see all the tricks managers play but she goes along with it to get ahead and not starve. Another girl named Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) is not so lucky. She got Powell’s attention the year previously and that was the last time she worked. Now she cannot get a job at all and is pretty much starving since she is behind on her room and board.
            One day a new girl comes named Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn). The other girls can see she comes from money, she walks in with a nice fur coat, tons of luggage, and pays for a few months room and board without a problem with a fifty dollar bill (to which the rest of the girls ask if it is real and if there is such a thing). Unfortunately, to Jean’s annoyance, Terry is roomed with her. The two women are like oil and water but they give it as well as they can take it. Terry puts a picture of her grandfather on the dresser and Jean is thinking her grandfather is not really her grandfather but an older gentleman who keeps Terry.
            Jean and a girl named Anne (Ann Miller) get a job performing at a club that Powell owns. Anne is onto Powell and his games but Jean decides to milk all his attention for all it’s worth. Powell wines and dines Jean and puts on the same old routine he does with all women. The whole thing goes south when Jean has a little too much to drink.
            Powell gets all of Terry’s furry one day when he refuses to see Kay. The poor girl faints from hunger and exhaustion and shock at not getting a meeting with Powell. She has been waiting to get a part that she believes was made for her.  Terry walks right into Powell’s office and yells at him. The manager likes Terry’s initiative. When Terry leaves a man comes in with an offer. The man is someone who works with Terry’s very rich father. He pays Powell to hire her for the play knowing she will be bad and have to come home. Powell, the greedy man that he is, accepts the offer and puts Terry in the show.
            Everyone at the house is extremely upset at Terry for accepting the role since she knew Kay wanted it so bad. They all expect Terry to be terrible but due something horrible she is able to play a scene full of emotions well and she becomes a star.
            I originally bought the film because Ginger Rogers in it. Of course I loved her in it she is hysterical. Rogers is the modern 1930s snarky, tough bitch. Her lines were hysterical no matter how many times I see this film I laugh every time she opens her mouth. Rogers’s exchanges with Katharine Hepburn were awesome. I just finished reading a biography on Hepburn and she wanted everything her way or nothing at all. Rogers even mentions this in her autobiography and Hepburn made things a little difficult. She says that she could not understand how Hepburn got whatever she wanted even though the actress had gotten one Academy Award but the rest of her films had been flops. I cannot understand that for the life of me either but apparently Hepburn was a snot and saw herself as better than everyone else. It is clear that Rogers and just about half the cast was better than Hepburn (Hepburn created a legend around herself and that is why people think she is amazing. Read Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann and you will see what I am talking about.). All I have to say is that Rogers got her come back when she won the Academy Award over Hepburn for Kitty Foyle when The Philadelphia Story was Hepburn’s comeback.
            Eve Arden plays Eve and of course she has some incredible snarky lines and fast come backs. Ann Miller was a very tall fourteen years old that lied about her age to be in the film. Rogers said that Miller wanted to dance with her but she was so tall that Rogers did not want to dance with her but Miller said she would do anything to dance with the actress. Gail Patrick was so elegant and so pretty. She really did give it back to Jean and did not get her feathers ruffled. Andrea Leeds as Kay Hamilton was the only one to receive an Academy Award nomination. Leeds was very good as the typical aspiring actress. Adolphe Menjou is just awesome even if he was a slime. A very young Lucille Ball plays Judith and has her share of snarky lines and some good scenes with Ginger Rogers who was her best friend. Ball said that this film is what launched her career.


            Stage Door is such a fun film to sit through. Ginger Rogers is a panic this is one of my favorite of her films. The whole cast is just great. The story was very touching and very true to the time and can possibly even hold up today with young actresses. Stage Door is a film not to be missed at all.
Oh….. this is the film where Katharine Hepburn says “The calla lilies are in bloom today”!!!