For Reel

Stage Door (1937)
June 2, 2012, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Gregory La Cava

RKO paired its biggest money-earner with one of its most lauded dramatic stars in Stage Door, a bitter precursor to All About Eve which follows the camaraderie of aspiring actresses in a boarding house and the occasional tragedy that befalls them. It is the hesitant friendship that is forged between Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn – the former with her career nearing its peak, the latter in a slump of lackluster box office receipts – that is the core of the film, with an impressive assortment of supporting players including Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and Jack Carson rounding out the cast. Gregory La Cava, one of the most critically underestimated directors of the golden age of Hollywood, often has the women inhabit each plane of his crowded images, making the boarding house teem with life and providing the soundtrack with an ever-present chatter. A pivotal moment comes when the most tragic of the girls, played by the Oscar nominated Andrea Leeds, commits suicide, ultimately influencing the stiff stage performance of the struggling Hepburn. In the end, a new arrival to the boarding house echoes Hepburn’s tumultuous welcoming, but one can’t be sure whether she’ll assimilate just as well as the woman who came before her, or if she’ll meet a tragic end just as Leeds did.

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