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.
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.
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.
- 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
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
An old favorite. I wish I could have seen the play, especially with Mary Wickes.ReplyDelete
It would have been such fun to see the play. Movie faves Phyllis Brooks and Lee Patrick were in the cast as well. Plus Tom Ewell and Onslow Stevens.Delete
I didn't see the movie but PHYLLIS BROOKS was in LADY IN THE DARK with GINGER ROGERS. I think you've seen most of Ginger's movies. What was your opinion of this one?ReplyDelete
Lady in the Dark is something I have only read about, the play and the movie. I expect I'll see it one of these days.Delete
PETER MARSHALL is 95 today! He is best known for being the host of HOLLYWOOD SQUARES. He is the brother of JOANNE DRU. He had a role on an ep of HOTEL with guest stars CONNIE STEVENS and HEATHER LOCKLEAR. P.S. GINGER ROGERS later did an ep of that show.ReplyDelete
Peter starred in the musical play La Cage Aux Folles on tour with Keene Curtis. It played Toronto in 1985.Delete
Such an amazing cast! These talented actresses always make Stage Door a pleasure to watch. Thanks for mentioning Gail Patrick. I’ve interviewed Ruta Lee and Constance Powers, fine actresses who credited Gail Patrick with getting them work at key periods during their careers.ReplyDelete
Gail Patrick, not just a gal who makes my husband go "hubba-hubba." Her career is most impressive.Delete
This film is a good one, tough but with a heart. I didn't know about the change in character for Terry; wonder if the change was made as a kind of in-joke on Hepburn? (The Calla Lilies line came from a play she did called The Lake, which was a notorious flop.) Great post on this lovely movie!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much.Delete
There has never been a Broadway revival of the show. Odd, considering the other Ferber and Kaufman shows seem to get a regular airing.
Today DON HASTINGS turns 87! He is best known for playing DR. BOB HUGHES on AS THE WORLD TURNS. Don is the younger brother of BOB HASTINGS(GENERAL HOSPITAL). Bob was nine years older than Don.ReplyDelete
Both brothers began their careers young. I have seen Bob as a youngster singing in a musical short on TCM. Don was on Captain Video back in the 1950s.Delete
JANE POWELL is 92 today! Different times in the 90s she substituted for EILEEN FULTON on AS THE WORLD TURNS as LISA. Lisa was the ex-wife of DR. BOB HUGHES. Jane is exactly five years older than DON HASTINGS! Jane was in the musical THE GIRL MOST LIKELY. It was a remake of the comedy TOM, DICK, AND HARRY starring...GINGER ROGERS!ReplyDelete
I thought Jane did an excellent job subbing for Eileen. Both ladies sing.Delete
I love Stage Door. It definitely has one of the best casts of all time! It still blows my mind that Ann Miller was still a teenager when she appeared in this. She carries herself as if she were more mature.ReplyDelete
I feel the same way about Ann. It is truly mind-boggling. Personally, I'm still waiting for some maturity.Delete
Anyone would be sold after this post. If I hadn't watched the film - and liked it a lot - I'd be running to watch it. Andrea Leeds is mesmerizing as Kay, too bad she didn't get more substantial roles.ReplyDelete
The only other time I saw Ms. Leeds was in Come and Get It, and she was grand. It is difficult to fathom who makes it and who doesn't in Hollywood.Delete