Saturday, November 7, 2009
I'm so, so glad I finally got around to watching Stage Door - the film is a gem and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can so see why it was nominated for Best Picture in 1937 - the honor was well-deserved in my opinion. Loosely based on a play by Edna Ferber (Giant, Show Boat) and George S. Kaufman (You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner), this is a movie full of humor and heart, striking just the right balance of comedy and melodrama. It's a great example of 1930s Depression-era escapism, with every character doing their level best to get by and catch a break. The story centers around a group of aspiring Broadway actresses that make their home at the Footlights Club boarding house. They're a fairly tight-knit group, and include a brash dancer played by Ginger Rogers, a "kept" woman played by Gail Patrick, a brilliant actress who can't catch a break played by Andrea Leeds, and some wise-cracks and sarcasm provided by Lucille Ball. There's also a noteworthy turn by a 14 year old Ann Miller, remarkably holding her own and not out of place in the least opposite actresses ten years or more her senior. The equilibrium of the house is disrupted by the arrival of the "uppity" Tracy with a secretive past, played by Katharine Hepburn, who doesn't seem to know her place. The role of Tracy fits Hepburn like a glove, and watch for the moment when she delivers the line "the calla lilies are in bloom again" - it's priceless! While Rogers and Hepburn are clearly the stars, the rest of the cast is given ample opportunity to shine - this is a great ensemble picture, very nearly flawlessly constructed in how it gives each actress their moment in the spotlight. The film is fast-paced, with never a dull or lagging moment, and the dialogue positively sizzles with electric energy. The final scene is breath-takingly well played - life at the Footlights Club, with all of the triumphs and tragedy that occurs, will, like "the show," always go on. I think the DVD transfer here is fantastic, with an extremely crisp & clear picture. There are a few extras - the musical short Ups and Downs is really pretty cute, and fun for the novelty of seeing an extremely young June Allyson in only her third role, nearly unrecognizable as a platinum blonde. For fans of the classics, you can't do better than Stage Door's expert balance of comedy and drama. It's a definite keeper.