Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Stage Door is about The Footlights Club, a boarding house for aspiring actresses. When a confident rich amateur (Katharine Hepburn) moves in, her snobbery immediately provokes the derision of the other tenants, particularly the wisecracking and insecure dancer (Ginger Rogers) who is assigned as her roommate.

The other residents run the gamut from the old grand dame who's underappreciated in her advanced age, to the teenager who's never even been in a theater except as a spectator. Andrea Leeds (in her Oscar winning performance) plays last year's sensation desperate to get another role before people forget who she is. Gail Patrick plays a scheming social climber trying to date her way to fame. The cynical and sarcastic Eve Arden, and the jaded Lucille Ball round out the impressive ensemble.


Stories of star struck young women becoming disillusioned by the reality of show business was becoming popular theme in the films of the time as demonstrated in another 1937 film, A Star Is Born.

Audiences were already familiar with Katherine Hepburn as she had already won an Oscar in Morning Glory four years earlier. Earlier in her career, she had starred in a Broadway play called "The Lake" which had famously flopped. Hepburn playfully references this in Stage Door when, as a bad actress set up to fail, she woodenly recites a line from The Lake: "The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion..." This line would become one of her more memorable catchphrases.

Audiences were also familiar with Ginger Rogers. Although usually associated with Fred Astaire, she had a career of her own, and was known to typically play strong and sassy characters.


The movie was the big break for Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, and Ann Miller, and it was fascinating to see early performances from these women who would become household names years later

The feminism holds up well 70 years later. Despite all the mean-spirited wisecracking, these women are there for each other when it counts. They're independent, tough, and smart.

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