Stage Door

"Extraordinary"

Stage Door Review


Stage Door deserves its own solid gold time capsule. This is one for the ages, a hyperwitty comedy/drama written by the brilliant Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman who took their play from the Broadway stage to the RKO soundstage and put it in the capable hands of director Gregory La Cava and an all-star cast of the most dazzling leading ladies of the 1930s. No, they don't make 'em like this anymore.

Justifiably famous for a rapid-fire script jam-packed with barbed remarks and caustic retorts, the film makes you stifle your laughter so you don't miss the next oncoming zinger. At one point, an exasperated Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn) says to the delightfully bitchy Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), "It'd be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wisecrack." Indeed.

Most of Stage Door's action takes place in a New York theater-district boarding house for aspiring young actresses. Day after day the young women head out on auditions and come home wearily to their ersatz sorority house to chat and joke about their unlucky breaks or to get all dolled up for a night out on the town with the potential sugar daddies who are always sniffing around.

Jean is the Queen Bee of the moment, and she's mighty displeased having to welcome a new roommate in the form of Hepburn's Terry, a rich, stuck-up poseur with a highfalutin' accent who's just arrived from Connecticut (hey, just like Hepburn's real life story). Terry is out to prove to her traditional family that she can make it as an actress, and she successfully parries every one of Jean's constant insults with rapier-like remarks of her own. It's some of cinema history's sharpest, fastest insult flinging.

Rounding out the gang is a very young Lucille Ball (fascinating to see), Eve Arden playing the type of wise-ass sidekick she'd play dozens of times in her career, 17-year-old Ann Miller, and Oscar-nominee Andrea Leeds as Kaye, the dreamy hopeful with a heart of gold who just has to get a part. She just has to!

As the girls tackle the big city, they find themselves caught in casting couch situations and dodging the nefarious advances of all kinds of unscrupulous theater types. They stick together through thick and thin, and their humor seems to be their ultimate defense mechanism. They'll do anything to keep their spirits up because the reality of their situation is so challenging and downright ugly.

Only the standoffish Terry stands outside the circle. Eventually she lands a leading role in a turgid drawing-room melodrama that features that famous speech, "The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day and now I place them here in memory of something that has died." Anyone who has ever imitated Hepburn knows this soliloquy, and it's interesting to note that it was actually lifted from a famous Broadway flop called "The Lake" in which Hepburn had starred a few years earlier.

Of course, when Terry wins the part, several other people lose, including the fragile, innocent Kaye. Tragedy ensues, and the story takes a sharp turn into high drama in its final minutes.

Stage Door is totally rewarding from start to finish. Like many movies of its time that came from the stage, it looks a bit stiff, like a filmed play almost inevitably will, but that doesn't detract one bit from the whipsmart dialogue that races by almost faster than you can process it. In the first half of the 20th century, only All About Eve matches it for its combination of brilliant female performances and a near-perfect script. If you love movies, Stage Door is mandatory viewing.

The DVD adds the musical short "Ups and Downs" and a radio production starring Rogers and Rosalind Russell.

These doors are open.



Stage Door

Facts and Figures

Run time: 92 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th October 1937

Distributed by: Warner Home Video

Production compaines: RKO Radio Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Gregory La Cava

Producer: Pandro S. Berman

Starring: as Terry Randall, as Jean Maitland, as Anthony Powell, as Judith, as Annie, as Eve, as Mr. Milbanks, as Linda Shaw, as Miss Luther, as Kay Hamilton, Samuel S. Hinds as Henry Sims, as Harcourt, William Corson as Bill, as Carmichael, as Butch, as Stage Director, Phyllis Kennedy as Hattie, Margaret Early as Mary Lou, as Dizzy, Elizabeth Dunn as Mrs. Orcutt, Norma Drury Boleslavsky as Olga (as Norma Drury), Betty Jane Rhodes as Ann (as Jane Rhodes), Peggy O'Donnell as Susan, Jan Wiley as Madeline (as Harriett Brandon)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.