Their goal is Hollywood itself, as Hollywood tries to portray young people trying to become famous through their talents, like in La La Land and Favellmans.
But in the 1930s and 1940s, it was Broadway and the stage in general, even if it meant “putting on the show” to raise money for good causes.
One of the star-studded classics of the era this week, 1937’s “Stage Door” is the next entry in the News Gazette film series, airing this Saturday at 1 and 7 p.m. at the Virginia Theater. increase.
“Stage Door” is unique among showbiz films in that it focuses exclusively on a group of young actresses pursuing rare roles on Broadway. Set during a downturn in new theater productions, when job titles are even harder to find, the film centers around the Footlights Club, a boarding house for young performers. part of the chorus line.
The club’s usual bickering and teasing is disrupted by the entrance of posh Terry Randall (Katherine Hepburn), who has no stage experience but thinks she might be good at it. It puts her at an instant confrontation with outspoken dancer Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), and of course they roll up their roommates, as that sort of thing usually works. Filling the room does not improve Jean’s demeanor, but does lead to a witty arch exchange.
And Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds), who was critically acclaimed in a hit film just over a year ago, has been unable to find a role or even meet a producer since.
She’s desperate not only to return to Broadway, but to get the lead in her new play Enchanted April, which is rumored to be coming soon, in order to identify with the character.
Judith Canfield (Lucille Ball) continues to accept dinner dates from visiting lumberjacks from her hometown of Seattle, trying to fix Gene and the other visitors and other Seattleites.
And Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick) regularly spends nights in chauffeured limousines with producer Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou), but is never cast.
Eve Arden, Ann Miller and famous transatlantic tragedy elder Constance Collier join the diverse collection of boarders at the Footlights Club.
“Stage Door” was based on the popular 1936 play by Edna Farber and George S. Kaufman, in which Margaret Sullavan, who played Terry (already a stage and film star), became pregnant, and Farber and Kaufman I did 169 performances just because I was pregnant. We couldn’t see anyone else playing the role (Saravan’s wealthy, upper-class background matched Terry’s perfectly).
However, the film changes dialogue and story so much that Kaufman quipped that RKO should have called it “Screen Door.”
Former Walter Lantz animator Gregory LaCava was one of the best comedy directors of the 1930s, but today he’s not as famous as Capra or Hawkes. Nevertheless, he earned his second consecutive Academy Award nomination for Best Director for this film and Screwball his comedy classic My Man Godfrey. Writers Molly Riskinde and Anthony Valor were nominated for an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Perhaps ironically, the film is quite different from the play, but the screenwriters brightened up the work with a young actress and real-world companions. LaCava sent an assistant to infiltrate just such a boarding house for young actresses (there was indeed such a facility at the time) to see how they were talking and Some were caught on film. Writers also listened to actresses interacting off-set, some of which was incorporated into the film.
And when Terry joins the play, her opening line, which begins with “The calla blooms again,” is the dialogue actually delivered by Hepburn in the 1934 Broadway play The Lake, and she is very It received negative reviews (critic) Dorothy Parker famously said that Hepburn’s performance ran “the full spectrum of emotions from A to B”).
But Hepburn’s performance here saved her career. was so well received that RKO immediately signed “Bringing Up Baby”, followed by “Holiday”. And “The Philadelphia Story,” all with Cary Grant.
Around this time, Ginger Rogers was busy alternating dances with Fred Astaire (she had already done six films with him) and showing her range in comedic and dramatic roles. Just three years later, she won an Oscar for her title performance in “Kitty Foil.”
Although “Stage Door” is generally considered a comedy and contains several musical numbers (most notably Ann Miller and Ginger Rogers doing some fancy footwork), It deals with some serious themes that should have run into censorship issues. It tap-dances the entire “Casting Couch” issue with Adolphe Menjou’s lecherous producers, suggesting a lot but never making it clear.
And then there’s suicide, which would normally have been forbidden by the filmmaking rules of the time.
“Stage Door” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Andrea Leeds was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. The New York Film Critics Association named LaCava best director and Hepburn best actress.