[box cover]

Stage Door

Staging a film around a group of struggling actors is a large subgenre to itself in '30s cinema (often musicals, and specifically the Busby Berkeley ouerve), and one of the best is Gregory La Cava's 1937 Stage Door. It revolves around a girls' boarding house filled with would-be actresses, where Terry Randall (Katherine Hepburn) has just moved in. Some of the tenants — like Judy Canfield (Lucille Ball) — have virtually given up the racket and are now in search of a husband, while others — like Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers) — keep on struggling and hit every audition they can. Rounding out the odd family are Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick), who's managed to become a kept woman for manager Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou), and Kaye Hamilton (Andrea Lees), who had her shot and is now withering along with her career. Terry is an odd fit; she's got lots of clothes and speaks with an incongruous erudition — her big secret is that her family is rich, and she wishes to succeed on her own. But it's not she but her roommate Gail that irks the house first when she's picked up on by Powell, whom she starts dating to spite Linda. Yet it's Terry to whom Powell gives a big break (for mysterious reasons), and some feel her role should have been played by Kaye, while Kaye gets sicker and sicker until Terry's big night when a tragedy teaches her what acting is. For anyone who's ever heard a Hepburn impression, one of her most infamous lines comes from this work ("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."). But it does little justice to Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Vellier's script (as adapted from Edna Ferber and George Kaufman's play), which has a very sharp satirical edge, at least until its melodramatic conclusion. Rogers and Ball deliver delicious bon mots throughout, and under direction from Gregory La Cava (best known for his masterpiece My Man Godfrey), the zingers singe. La Cava, one of the era's more underrated directors, began doing comics strips and moved on to animated two-reelers. He directed some of the best screwball comedies, and his influence in that genre has been understated. Warner presents Stage Door in a full-frame transfer (1.33:1 OAR) from a source-print that shows only nominal wear and DD 1.0 audio. Extras include "Ups and Downs" (21 min.), a musical short with June Alyson, and the "2/20/1939 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast" version of Stage Door (58 min.) with Adophe Menjou, Ginger Rogers, Rosiland Russell, and Eve Arden. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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