Stage Door is a 1937 RKO film directed by Gregory La Cava. Adapted from the play of the same name, it tells the story of several would-be actresses who live together in a boarding house at 158 West 58th Street in New York City. The film stars Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds and Lucille Ball. Eve Arden and Ann Miller, who became notable in later films, play minor characters.
The film was adapted by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, but the play’s storyline and the characters’ names were almost completely changed for the movie, so much so in fact that Kaufman joked the film should be called “Screen Door”.
- A chronicle of the ambitions, dreams, and disappointments of aspiring actresses who all live in the same boarding house.—Jack McKillop <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Terry Randall, rich society beauty, has decided to see if she can break into the Broadway theater scene without her family connections. She goes to live in a theatrical boarding house and finds her life caught up with those of the other inmates and the ever-present disappointment that theatrical hopefuls must live with. Her smart-mouth roommate, Jean, is approached by a powerful producer for more than just a role. And Terry’s father has decided to give her career the shove by backing a production for her to star in, in which she’s sure to flop. But his machinations hurt more than just Terry.—Kathy Li
- The Footlights Club is a women’s theatrical rooming house in New York City. It is the residence for many a struggling actress, most who can barely make ends meet, hence the reason that they decide to live in the inexpensive club with cramped quarters, shared bathroom and the bad lamb stew for dinners. Elderly Catherine Luther lives there solely to be able to relive her past minor glories on the stage with her younger, inexperienced house-mates. Judy Canfield tolerates dating who she considers a boor name Milbanks and setting one of the other girls on double blind dates with them solely to get out from meals of bad lamb stew. Talented Kay Hamilton has had one success on Broadway in an Anthony Powell produced play a year ago, but cannot even get into see Powell now. Running out of money and late on rent, forgoing eating in an effort to bargain on the “board” part of the rent, she believes she was born to play the lead in Powell’s next play, “Enchanted April”, which she also believes will get her back on her feet if she can only get in to see Powell to get the part. Womanizing Powell is currently dating another of the Footlights’ girls, Linda Shaw, who lords her expensive gifts of jewels and furs over the others, but who remains in the shadows on her dates with him because of his married with child status. Into the club comes Terry Randall, who to the others obviously has money, which her roommate, forthright cynical dancer Jean Maitland, believes is from a sugar daddy. Terry’s air of superiority and intellectualism also does not sit well with Jean, especially as Terry believes one does not need to study but just be smart to act well. In reality, Terry is an heiress – a fact she does not tell the others – her “wheat king” father Henry Sims who does not want her to pursue acting as a career. Unknown to Terry, her father goes about trying to prove that Terry does not have what it takes to become an actress, his action which unwittingly leads to tragedy and for the first time in her life true emotion from Terry.—Huggo
The writers listened to the young actresses talking and joking off set during rehearsals and incorporated their style of talking into the film. Director Gregory La Cava also allowed the actresses to ad lib during filming. Hepburn’s famous lines during the play within the film, “The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day and now I place them here in memory of something that has died,” are from The Lake (1934), the play for which Dorothy Parker panned Hepburn’s performance as “running the gamut of emotions from A to B.”
The movie has almost nothing to do with the play, except in a few character names, such as Kay Hamilton, Jean Maitland, Terry Randall, Linda Shaw, and Judith Canfield. In the play, Terry Randall is from a rural family whose father is a country doctor, and Jean Maitland is actually a shallow girl who becomes a movie star. Kay Hamilton does commit suicide, but for completely different reasons and not on an opening night.
Lucille Désirée Ball (August 6, 1911 – April 26, 1989) was an American actress, comedian, model, entertainment studio executive and producer. She was the star of the self-produced sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy, as well as comedy television specials aired under the title The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.
Ball’s career began in 1929 when she landed work as a model. Shortly thereafter, she began her performing career on Broadway using the stage names Diane Belmont and Dianne Belmont. She later appeared in several minor film roles in the 1930s and 1940s as a contract player for RKO Radio Pictures, being cast as a chorus girl or in similar roles. During this time, she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, and the two eloped in November 1940. In the 1950s, Ball ventured into television. In 1951, she and Arnaz created the sitcom I Love Lucy, a series that became one of the most beloved programs in television history. The same year, Ball gave birth to their first child, Lucie Arnaz, followed by Desi Arnaz Jr. in 1953. Ball and Arnaz divorced in May 1960, and she married comedian Gary Morton in 1961.
Following the end of I Love Lucy, Ball appeared in a Broadway musical, Wildcat, for a year from 1960 to 1961, although the show received lukewarm reviews and had to be shut down permanently when Ball became ill for a brief time. After Wildcat, Ball reunited with I Love Lucy co-star Vivian Vance for the aforementioned Lucy Show, which Vance left in 1965 but which continued for three years with longtime friend of Ball’s Gale Gordon who already had a recurring role on the program.
In 1962, Ball became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which produced many popular television series, including Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. Ball did not back away from acting completely. In 1985, she took on a dramatic role in a television film, Stone Pillow. The next year she starred in Life with Lucy, which was, unlike her other sitcoms, not well-received; the show was cancelled after three months. She appeared in film and television roles for the rest of her career until her death in April 1989 from an abdominal aortic dissection at the age of 77.
Ball was nominated for 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning four times. In 1960, she received two stars for her work in film and television on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1977, Ball was among the first recipients of the Women in Film Crystal Award. She was also the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1979, was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1984, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors in 1986, and the Governors Award from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in 1989.
Born May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Connecticut, she was the daughter of a doctor and a suffragette, both of whom always encouraged her to speak her mind, develop it fully, and exercise her body to its full potential. An athletic tomboy as a child, she was also very close to her brother, Tom, and was devastated at age 14 to find him dead, the apparent result of accidentally hanging himself while practicing a hanging trick their father had taught them. For many years after this, Katharine used his birthdate, November 8, as her own. She then became very shy around girls her age, and was largely schooled at home. She did attend Bryn Mawr College, however, and it was here that she decided to become an actress, appearing in many of their productions.
After graduating, she began getting small roles in plays on Broadway and elsewhere. She always attracted attention in these parts, especially for her role in “Art and Mrs. Bottle” (1931); then, she finally broke into stardom when she took the starring role of the Amazon princess Antiope in “A Warrior’s Husband” (1932). The inevitable film offers followed, and after making a few screen tests, she was cast in A Bill of Divorcement (1932), opposite John Barrymore. The film was a hit, and after agreeing to her salary demands, RKO signed her to a contract. She made five films between 1932 and 1934. For her third, Morning Glory (1933) she won her first Academy Award. Her fourth, Little Women (1933) was the most successful picture of its day.
But stories were beginning to leak out of her haughty behavior off- screen and her refusal to play the Hollywood Game, always wearing slacks and no makeup, never posing for pictures or giving interviews. Audiences were shocked at her unconventional behavior instead of applauding it, and so when she returned to Broadway in 1934 to star in “The Lake”, the critics panned her and the audiences, who at first bought up tickets, soon deserted her. When she returned to Hollywood, things didn’t get much better. From the period 1935-1938, she had only two hits: Alice Adams (1935), which brought her her second Oscar nomination, and Stage Door (1937); the many flops included Break of Hearts (1935), Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Mary of Scotland (1936), Quality Street (1937) and the now- classic Bringing Up Baby (1938).
With so many flops, she came to be labeled “box-office poison.” She decided to go back to Broadway to star in “The Philadelphia Story” (1938), and was rewarded with a smash. She quickly bought the film rights, and so was able to negotiate her way back to Hollywood on her own terms, including her choice of director and co-stars. The film version of The Philadelphia Story (1940), was a box-office hit, and Hepburn, who won her third Oscar nomination for the film, was bankable again. For her next film, Woman of the Year (1942), she was paired with Spencer Tracy, and the chemistry between them lasted for eight more films, spanning the course of 25 years, and a romance that lasted that long off-screen. (She received her fourth Oscar nomination for the film.) Their films included the very successful Adam’s Rib (1949), Pat and Mike (1952), and Desk Set (1957).
With The African Queen (1951), Hepburn moved into middle-aged spinster roles, receiving her fifth Oscar nomination for the film. She played more of these types of roles throughout the 50s, and won more Oscar nominations for many of them, including her roles in Summertime (1955), The Rainmaker (1956) and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Her film roles became fewer and farther between in the 60s, as she devoted her time to her ailing partner Spencer Tracy. For one of her film appearances in this decade, in Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962), she received her ninth Oscar nomination. After a five-year absence from films, she then made Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), her last film with Tracy and the last film Tracy ever made; he died just weeks after finishing it. It garnered Hepburn her tenth Oscar nomination and her second win. The next year, she did The Lion in Winter (1968), which brought her her eleventh Oscar nomination and third win.
In the 70s, she turned to making made-for-TV films, with The Glass Menagerie (1973), Love Among the Ruins (1975) and The Corn Is Green (1979). She still continued to make an occasional appearance in feature films, such as Rooster Cogburn (1975), with John Wayne, and On Golden Pond (1981), with Henry Fonda. This last brought her her twelfth Oscar nomination and fourth win – the latter currently still a record for an actress.
She made more TV-films in the 80s, and wrote her autobiography, ‘Me’, in 1991. Her last feature film was Love Affair (1994), with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, and her last TV- film was One Christmas (1994). With her health declining she retired from public life in the mid-nineties. She died at the age of 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.
– IMDb Mini Biography By: Tommy Peter