Stage Door

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Stage Door
"The calla lilies are in bloom again..."
Sometimes watching a video with a bunch of other (non-film-obsessive) twenty-somethings reminds us how time can wear on a movie. Stage Door has long been one of Chris' favorite films, which probably explains why it ended up in the most recent film series. Because Stage Door features Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Ann Miller, it fits into the theme of early Hollywood sex symbols quite nicely. Unfortunately, these women (with the exception of Miller, who was 14 when this film was made) were sex symbols in the 1930's, which means portions of the film may be lost on modern viewers.

Stage Door presents the lives of several women in New York, primarily those of Jean Maitland (Rogers) and Terry Randall (Hepburn). All of these women live at the Footlights Club, a boarding house for aspiring actresses. When Randall arrives at the house, she is greeted rather caustically by the other "inmates" for her prim manner and naivete. Soon, however, she manages to reach an uneasy truce with the other girls, mostly because she rooms with, and has been kind to, the less fortunate Jean.

Jean is approached by a big-time producer named Powell (Adolphe Menjou) for reasons unrelated to the theater, much to the consternation of his current girlfriend, Linda, who also lives at the club. Jean allows herself to be wined and dined, mostly to watch Linda do a slow burn, but also to take advantage of the free meals and gifts.

Stage Door
Hepburn and Rogers in Stage Door.
Terry also becomes involved with Powell, but in a different way. Unbeknownst to Terry, her wealthy father (named Henry Sims, so Terry Randall must be a stage name) has funded Powell's latest production, on the condition that Terry be given the female lead. Sims hopes that the play will be a flop and that Terry will return home to a more proper life. It nearly does when we Randall goes through rehearsal after rehearsal mangling her famous line: "The calla lilies are in bloom again..." The film goes on to chronicle the trials and tribulations of these two girls and the other aspiring actresses at the club.

As we mentioned before, the film's age can be a barrier. Certainly, there is a great deal of slang that is somewhat incomprehensible. (Can anyone tell us what "go wash your own neck and see how you like it" means? Or the even more obscure "goldfish bowl" insult towards the end of the movie?) Some of the more serious portions of the movie can be mistaken for melodrama as well.

Fortunately, the story is suprisingly modern for the 1930's. As our notorious friend Amy pointed out, it's rare to find a movie from this time period that focuses so exclusively on women and their lives and careers. The only major male character (Powell) is a creep, and the women succeed in varying degress, which is better than sending them all home to keep house at the end of their "frivolous" career attempts.

All of these women are also funny. The verbal sparring is frequently hilarious, and the characters are drawn well. Even though the majority of the characters are only around for comic relief, all of them have amusing comic ticks, and none of them wear out their welcome. You'll also spot a young Lucille Ball, back when she was still considered a bit of a sexpot.

Classic film buffs will probably be enchanted by Stage Door; it's sweet and smart, and showcases some of the era's best actresses. Those of you waiting with baited breath for the next installment of the Friday the 13th series, however, will want to pass. Go wash your own neck and see how you like it.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 3/15/98

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