Not Rated; Directed by Gregory de La Cava; Starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds
Did you know that you can check out DVDs and videos from our local public library? Not only can you check them out for a whole week, it’s also free. To some people, though, there is a problem with the choice of films. The newest ones are always checked out. Ah, but who needs new films? The DVD shelves at the library offer plenty of old movies. One of those films is the wonderful “Stage Door.”
If you were going to sit back and watch an old move, this is it. Made in 1937, “Stage Door” stars Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Adolphe Menjou. The supporting cast includes several very young actresses by the name of Lucille Ball, Ann Miller and Eve Arden. One actress, Andrea Leeds, earned an Academy Award nomination for supporting actress.
“Stage Door” started as a Broadway play written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. Concerning actresses living at the Footlights Club in New York City, the play was a hit. When RKO bought the property they kept the overall premise, but allowed director Gregory La Cava the opportunity to re-write as he saw fit. What La Cava saw fit was to allow his cast to improvise scenes in the morning then film those scenes in the afternoon. The end result is a funny, touching, and surprising movie with a cast that shines.
Katherine Hepburn stars as Terry Randall, an upper class young woman determined to star on stage. When she arrives at the Footlights Club she meets Jean Maitland, played by the feisty and funny Ginger Rogers. The two don’t get along and exchange a variety of very clever insults. The other actresses add to the merriment with Andrea Leeds as a sensitive actress and Gail Patrick as Jean’s snooty roommate living the high life as the “girl friend” of theater producer, Anthony Powell. Adolphe Menjou plays the wealthy Anthony Powell. Attracted to both Jean and Terry, the movie keeps you guessing who he will end up with, but it’s a proper ending.
The movie is fun to watch. The plot allows the stars to show off their talent. Katherine Hepburn is marvelous as the condescending, but vulnerable Terry. Adolphe Menjou is excellent as the sly and seductive producer. Yet, it is Ginger Rogers who steals the show as the confident Jean. She’s funny, beautiful, and moving as the poor, hard-working actress doing battle against the powers that be. Whether bickering with Hepburn or discovering how the other half lives with Menjou she’s a joy to watch.
Now, if you don’t like old movies you may not find “Stage Door” to your liking, but if you want to try something different, who knows? This movie may get you started on liking those comedies from the 1930s. Even better, it won’t cost you a thing. Head over to the library and you can check it out.