Battle of the Broadway Babes
"Stage Door" not only has a stellar cast featuring Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Lucille Ball, Andrea Leeds and Adolphe Menjou it is also a stellar movie. On first look it appears to be a comedy about a home for young actresses who desperately want to make it on the stage, with cynicism and jealousy locking horns to provide plenty of snide barbs and witty bickering. But then "Stage Door" is more than just amusing entertainment as it contains a depth as to how the demands of trying to be an actress can affect those who desperately persevere despite constant rejection. It means that whilst you will enjoy all the humour and there is plenty, you will equally be impressed at the more dramatic side of the story.
Despite coming from a wealthy family, Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn - Sylvia Scarlett) is determined to make something of her life without the use of the family name or money and what she plans to do is to become a star of the stage. It is why Terry shows up at the Footlight Club a home for aspiring actresses, a diverse bunch of wannabees and has beens as well as those who have tasted success and are now desperate trying to obtain that feeling again. Finding herself sharing a room with cynical and feisty Jean (Ginger Rogers - Shall We Dance), Terry slowly comes to realise the life of an aspiring actress is not as simple as she imagined and those in power are prone to abuse it as in the case of producer Tony Powell (Adolphe Menjou) who having been using actress Linda (Gail Patrick) as a personal escort turns his affections towards Jean. And he also offers Terry the lead role in his new production, with a little behind the scenes persuasion from Terry's father, a role which talented actress Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) had been pinning her hopes on.
So as already mentioned on first look "Stage Door" takes on the style of a screwball comedy as we are taken into the female world of the Footlights Club and the mixture of aspiring actresses and has beens. With a variety of characters from enthusiastic young actresses to those now full of cynicism having been trying for years to make it whilst others having tasted success are desperate for more there is a diverse collection of personalities. And these characters all have opinions, so dialogue basically ricochets all over the place as one of these aspiring actresses makes some witty comment for the rest of them to pipe up and throw their two penneth worth in. It's amusing because of the personalities and their quirks from Eve who walks around with the house cat draped around her neck like a fur to the bitchy remarks flying between dancer Jean and Linda who has got herself a sugar daddy in producer Tony Powell.
That is just the set up and there is a lot more comedy when Terry Randall enters the home with a matter of fact manner and forcefulness which winds people up the wrong way. And with us being privy to the fact that she comes from money but trying to make a success of herself without her family name or fortune just adds to the amusement as whilst clever is also oblivious to the hardship of trying to succeed.
But whilst you have the humour of these struggling actresses bickering and making fun of each other "Stage Door" also has a lot of depth. We see how becoming an escort to a producer can be tempting after years of rejection and how shallow the industry is making you a star one day and discarding you the next. And it is on that note the story of Kay Hamilton who a year earlier had been the toast of the town and now suffering financial hardship and knock backs adds a serious amount of depth and dark realism to how hard it can be. I am not going to go into detail but Andrea Leeds who played Kay received an Oscar nomination for her performance and it is easy to see why as it is seriously powerful.
Now for a movie which is crammed with so much talent there is never a dull moment and nor is there a bad performance. The likes of Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller provide plenty of amusement whilst the already mentioned Andrea Leeds delivers the movies knockout dramatic performance. But it is Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn who take the lead roles and do a very good job of it. Rogers delivers this feistiness and sarcasm of someone who whilst having received plenty of knock backs is still fighting on, slightly cynical due to her struggles. And then there is Hepburn whose obliviousness to the hardships and black & white approach provides plenty of amusing moments especially as she shares so many scenes with Rogers.
What this all boils down to is that "Stage Door" is a pretty stellar movie. Not only does it have a brilliant cast but it also delivers a brilliant storyline which brings with it plenty of comedy but also the dark reality of the hardship which comes with trying to be an actress. As such it will make you laugh but it will also make you sit forwards and pay attention when the drama takes over especially when ever Andrea Leeds as Kay has a scene.