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

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

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.