The Footlight Club is a NYC boarding house for young women in the theatrical profession; actresses, chorus girls, musicians or waitresses, and hatcheck girls making the rounds of auditions and manager's offices. Mrs. Orcutt (Elizabeth Dunne) is the landlady. She was in Bernhardt's company and a chair used by the legendary actress is the centrepiece of the home's main floor. Miss Luther (Constance Collier) is an older resident of the club and the younger women, if they open their eyes, may see their future in the woman all too willing to share the stories of her past glory, and who "may" begin coaching until the next role comes along. Note: Constance Collier was in reality a respected acting coach and became a lifelong friend of co-star Katharine Hepburn.
The residents can be characterized by the naive newcomers with stars in their eyes and the hardened veterans of the theatre wars. It only takes a few weeks of lack of work, lack of money, lack of food, and lack of encouragement for one to turn into the other. A steady flow of sarcasm and bitter humour is the armour worn by these young women. It offers scant protection.
Teenager Ann Miller with Ginger Rogers
Judith Canfield (Lucille Ball) entertains visiting businessmen from back home in Seattle for the meals they provide. She sometimes brings pals like Eve (Eve Arden) in on the free food. Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick) has found a temporary meal ticket with Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou), a producer who is not looking for emotional entanglements.
Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers) is an attractive and talented dancer, and one of those who has perfected the art of looking like she hasn't a care in the world while carrying the weight of it on her shoulders. Her dance partner Annie (Ann Miller) is a go-getter with an open personality.
Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) is an actress. Everyone agrees she is the most talented resident, and last season she wowed everyone in her Broadway debut. This season, she can't even get into Anthony Powell's office. A combination of personal and professional disappointments and lack of money is driving Kay to tragedy.
Katharine Hepburn, Constance Collier in the background
Into this garden spot comes Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn), a midwestern heiress; confident and well-heeled. Terry has gotten it into her head that she wants to be an actress. She has very definite ideas and very definite ways of expressing herself. It will take a while for the others to discover Terry is not such a bad egg, as eggs go.
Directed by Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey) from the screenplay by Morrie Ryskind (Penny Serenade) and Anthony Veiller (The Stranger) adapting the Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman play.
You will find our peek into The Footlight Club, the characters, their struggles, and their valiant humour a place you will happily visit more than once.
"They should have called it Screen Door."
- George S. Kaufman
The Ferber and Kaufman play, their third following The Royal Family and Dinner at Eight, ran on Broadway for 169 performances from October 1936 to March 1937. It is not a surprise that the authors were less than pleased with the adaptation seeing as their play has its fair share of Hollywood-bashing which, of course, had to go.
Terry Randall of the play is no nouveau-riche newcomer, but a talented actress who is devoted to the theatre and to a young playwright of left-leaning ideals. Margaret Sullavan was acclaimed and associated with the role, and when she left the play due to pregnancy, the producers decided to close the run.
Note Mary Wickes (upper right) in her first Broadway season at the beginning of her long and storied career.
On stage and on screen, Stage Door gives young actresses a chance to strut their stuff and the characters are timeless.
TCM is presenting Stage Door in the morning of Monday, April 26th when the alphabetical screenings of 31 Days of Oscar reaching the letter "S." Don't miss it. The calla lilies will be in bloom.
Stage Door Oscar nominations:
Winner: The Life of Emile Zola
Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Andrea Leeds as Kay Hamilton
Winner: Alice Brady, In Old Chicago
Best Director, Gregory La Cava
Winner: Leo McCarey, The Awful Truth
Best Writing, Screenplay: Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller
Winner: The Life of Emile Zola
Andrea Leeds as Kay, Oscar nominee
Classic TV is in good hands:
Eve Arden, Our Miss Brooks
Gail Patrick, Perry Mason producer
Lucille Ball, I Love Lucy, Desilu