Stage Door theatrical poster
|Directed by||Gregory La Cava|
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Written by||Edna Ferber (play)
George S. Kaufman (play)
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Cinematography||Robert De Grasse|
|Editing by||William Hamilton|
|Studio||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Release date(s)||October 8, 1937|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Stage Door is a 1937 RKO film, adapted from the play by the same name, that tells the story of several would-be actresses who live together in a boarding house at 158 West 58th Street in New York City. The film stars Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds and Lucille Ball. Eve Arden and Ann Miller, who became notable in later films, play minor characters.
The film was adapted by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, but the play's storyline and the characters' names were almost completely changed for the movie, so much so in fact that Kaufman joked the film should be called "Screen Door".
Stage Door was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and Leeds was nominated as Best Supporting Actress.
Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn) moves into the Footlights Club, a theatrical rooming house in New York. Her polished manners and superior attitude make her no friends among the rest of the aspiring actresses living there, particularly her new roommate, flippant, cynical dancer Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers). From Terry's expensive clothing and her photograph of her elderly grandfather, Jean assumes she has obtained the former from her sugar daddy, just as fellow resident Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick) has from her relationship with influential theatrical producer Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou). In truth however, Terry comes from a very wealthy, upper class, Midwest family. Over the strong objections of her father, Henry Sims (Samuel S. Hinds), she is determined to try to fulfill her dreams on her own. In the boarding house, Terry's only supporter is aging actress Catherine Luther (Constance Collier), who appoints herself Terry's mentor.
When Powell sees Jean dancing, he decides to dump Linda. He arranges for Jean and her partner Annie (Ann Miller) to get hired for the floor show of a nightclub he partly owns. He then starts dating Jean, who, despite her initial reluctance, starts falling for the man.
Meanwhile, well-liked Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds) had a great success and rave reviews in a play the year before, but has had no work since, and is running out of money. She clings desperately to the hope of landing the leading role in Powell's new play, Enchanted April. She finally gets an appointment to see Powell, only to have him cancel at the last minute. She faints in the reception area, the result of malnutrition and disappointment. Seeing this, Terry barges into Powell's private office and berates him for his callousness. As a result, the other boarding house residents start to warm to the newcomer.
Terry's father secretly finances Enchanted April on condition that Terry be given the starring role, hoping she'll make a fool of herself and return home. Powell invites Terry to his penthouse to break the news. When Jean shows up unannounced, Terry sees the opportunity to save her friend from the philandering Powell. She pretends that Powell is trying to seduce her. It works. However, it makes things uncomfortable around the boarding house. In addition to Jean's loathing, Terry's landing of the plum part breaks Kay's heart.
The totally inexperienced Terry is so horribly bad during rehearsals that Powell tries desperately to get out of his contract with Sims. On opening night, after she learns that the depressed Kay has committed suicide, Terry decides she cannot go on. Catherine tells her that she must, not just for herself, but also for Kay. She does, and gives a heartfelt performance. The play is a hit, much to the chagrin of Terry's father. At her curtain call, Terry gives a speech in tribute to her dead friend and Terry and Jean are reconciled. Terry continues to have success after months in the play, but she continues to board at the Footlight Club to be near her friends.
as Terry Randall
as Jean Maitland
as Anthony Powell
as Linda Shaw
as Catherine Luther
as Kay Hamilton
|Samuel S. Hinds
as Henry Sims
as Judy Canfield
- Franklin Pangborn as Harcourt, Powell's butler
- William Corson as Bill
- Pierre Watkin as Richard Carmichael
- Grady Sutton as 'Butch'
- Frank Reicher as Stage Director
- Jack Carson as Mr. Milbanks
- Phyllis Kennedy as Hattie
- Eve Arden as Eve
- Ann Miller as Annie
- Margaret Early as Mary Lou
- Florence Reed (*uncredited)
The writers listened to the young actresses talking and joking off set during rehearsals and incorporated their style of talking into the film. Director Gregory La Cava also allowed the actresses to ad lib during filming. The film received very good reviews and was a moderate success at the box office. Prior to this film, Hepburn's last four movies had failed commercially and as a result of the positive response to her performance in Stage Door, RKO immediately cast Hepburn opposite Cary Grant in the screwball classic comedy Bringing Up Baby.
Similarities to the play 
The movie has almost nothing to do with the play, except in a few character names, such as Kay Hamilton, Jean Maitland, Terry Randall, Linda Shaw, and Judith Canfield. In the play, Terry Randall is from a rural family whose father is a country doctor, and Jean Maitland is actually a shallow girl who becomes a movie star. However, Kay Hamilton does commit suicide, but for completely different reasons and not on an opening night.
Home media 
After Kay commits suicide, there is a brief shot of her grave as part of the montage of the success of the play, which was once edited out on all TV showings and is not on the VHS release. It was restored for the DVD and now is included in the version shown on Turner Classic Movies.
The film made a profit of $81,000.
- Dooley, Roger, From Scarface to Scarlett: American Films in the Thirties
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Stage Door|
- Stage Door at the Internet Movie Database
- Stage Door at the TCM Movie Database
- Stage Door at AllRovi