Stage Door (1937): La Cava’s Witty Backstage Comedy, with All-Star Cast (Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn)

Gregory La Cava’s witty serio-comedy, Stage Door, nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, describes a group of would-be actresses living in a theatrical boarding house, all-anxious to get their “big break.”

As Terry Randall, Katharine Hepburn plays one of her rich, spoiled girls, an aspiring actress, who moves into a house full of hopefuls. She shares a room With Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), who thinks Terry is a phony and a poseur. In time, Jean will change her mind of Terry, but not before the two clash in a romantic involvement with a rich producer Anthony Powell (Powell cast with Adolph Menjou).

Scripted by Robert Ryskind and Anthony Veiller, the movie is based on Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman’s play. Hepburn and Rogers have the best parts in an almost entirely-dominated female cast that includes vets Constance Collier and novices Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and Ann Miller. Andrea Leeds was the only one to be nominated, for playing a woman who, after waiting for a whole year for “the one role,” commits suicide.

Like “All About Eve” and “Sunset Boulevard,” Stage Door has become a cult film over the years, with such memorable lines as Hepburn declaring: “If I can act I want the world to know it, but if I can’t act, I want to know it.” Hepburn’s other noted line, “The calla lilies are in bloom again,” is taken from her unsuccessful stage play, “The Lake.” “Enchanted April” is the name of the stage play Hepburn is appearing in in “Stage Door.” (See below for references).

The few males in the ensemble are also well played by Menjou, as a smooth, dishonest producer (his specialty), Jack Carson, and Franklin Pangborn.

Of Similar Interest

All About Eve (Fox, 1950)
The Lake (Broadway play, 1933)
Enchanted April (RKO, 1935; Miramax, 1992)

Oscar Nominations: 4

Picture, produced by Pandro S. Berman
Director: Gregory La Cava
Screenplay: Morris Ryskind and Anthony Veiller
Supporting Actress: Andrea Leeds