Stage Door

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Speaker for the Dead
Speaker for the Dead
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Stage Door

Postby locke » Mon Jun 08, 2009 1:04 pm

It'd be a terrific innovation if you could get your minds stretched a little further than the next wisecrack.

A pleasant little foresome. I predict a hatchet murder before the night's over.

Do you mind if I ask a personal question?
Another one?
Are these trunks full of bodies?
Just those, but I don't intend to unpack them.

Stage Door is one of the sharpest and funniest films of the 1930s and features a superb story and terrific performances by Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou and Andrea Leeds. Lucille Ball is even quite good in a smaller supporting role.

The film opens at the Footlights Club, a boarding house for young women of the stage. Most of them are perennially out of work, barely scraping by, but managing somehow. One of the girls, Linda, has a wealthy producer 'sponser' so she eats well and goes 'out' nearly every evening. Ginger Rogers is Jean, a girl who is jealous of Linda, and very scared of winding up like her, abandoning her ideals and morals for a good meal and maybe a shot at stardom should the lech decide to put her in a play. Katherine Hepburn is Terry, a rich midwestern girl who shows up at the beginning, slaps down a fifty and promptly announces she's going to be a great success on the stage, Terry is naive, obnoxious, and determined, everyone instantly dislikes her with great bemusement. While they complain about there being no work, Terry wants to discuss Shakespeare. Finally there is Kay, a girl who had a breakout lead role the year before but hasn't been able to work since, she's slowly starving herself since she can't afford to eat and is pinning all her hopes on a role that is very much like her shadowy life story.

So as the girls bicker and fight to the great delight of the audience (because they are so damned clever) we're also getting a fabulous story about the trials and tribulations of actresses' lives. And soon Jean finds herself catching the eye of Linda's 'sponsor' whilst Terry explodes at him in a fine pique at his office. And there may be more going on, Terry may be getting an unfair advantage from her father, who is interested in seeing his daughter gain some sense and come back home, so he's kicking her into the stratosphere far sooner than is good for her, knowing she's likely to come crashing down all the more spectacularly (and as a result will listen to him in the future).

The film is beautifully directed by Gregory La Cava, who also did that other thirties masterpiece, My Man Godfrey, this film, though, is even better, imo. An often overlooked gem of a film that has some of the best acting and writing in the decade. Can't ask for much more than a great story that is this damn entertaining and satisfying. If anything, it gets better each time I watch it again. I enjoyed it more this time than I did the first couple times I watched it. Quite brilliant and lovely.

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