STAGE DOOR (1937) B/W 91m dir: Gregory La Cava
w/Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds, Lucille Ball, Pierre Watkin, Franklin Pangborn, Ann Miller, Eve Arden, Ralph Forbes, Jack Carson, Grady Sutton, Jean Rouverol
This wonderful example of Hollywood filmmaking is set in an all-girl hotel for struggling artists. The film blends comedy with pathos as it unfolds the lives of the aspiring actresses.
From The Movie Guide: "A stellar cast, superb direction, and a screenplay even better than the stage play on which it was based, all add up to one of the best movies about show business --- or about women living together --- ever made. ...
"Directing his first film since MY MAN GODFREY, La Cava showed that he could handle a large group of actors as well as he could do a straight two-lead comedy. So much work was done on the script that co-author of the play George S. Kaufman suggested waggishly that it should have been called 'Screen Door.' Legend has it that La Cava ordered the actresses to the studio for two weeks of rehearsal and familiarization with the boarding house set. Then he had a stenographer take their dialogue down as they sat around between rehearsals, and their words were incorporated into the script. The large cast includes Eve Arden (in her fourth film and already taking out a patent on her no-nonsense spinsters), Franklin Pangborn, Grady Sutton, and Jean Rouverol, who later became a well-known screenwriter with her husband, Hugo Butler. For years, impressions of Hepburn have used the line she speaks while acting onstage: 'The calla lilies are in bloom again.' The best line in the film, though, is Rogers' marvelous barb to a friend over the phone when Gail Patrick enters the scene: 'Hold on, gangrene just set in.' The best prop, meanwhile, is the cat forever draped over Eve Arden's shoulders. A brilliant script and strong, realistic acting make this film a treat to the eyes and ears, and it affords the additional pleasure of seeing all those future stars like Ball, Miller, Arden, and Jack Carson in their early days."
STAGE DOOR won an Oscar for Best Screenplay (Morris Ryskind & Anthony Veiller, based on the play by Edna Ferber & George S. Kaufman) and received three additional nominations: Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress (Leeds).
For more information about director La Cava, see LIVING IN A BIG WAY.