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.
Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers lead an extraordinary ensemble cast in Stage Door (1937). The film was directed by Gregory La Cava, whose most famous and beloved film is the screwball comedy My Man Godfrey, released one year before this film. Some of Hepburn’s and Rogers’ co-stars include Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller (who, by the way, was 14 years old. To the studio, she was 18), Gail Patrick, Adolphe Menjou, and Andrea Leeds.
.A group of hopeful young ladies live in a boarding house called the Footlights Club, a boarding house which has historically housed women who are aspiring actresses. Many of the ladies who live there are struggling to find a job. From the start, we–the members of the audience–are shown a fairly realistic portrait of show business.
Despite the hardships faced by these ladies, there’s a high level of energy contained within the house. Most of the time they just bicker with each other, but it’s really fun to watch. The script is so witty. And the cast is near perfection. Just to give you a glimpse, here’s the opening scene of the film:
Enter Terry Randall. Terry (Katharine Hepburn), unlike the other girls, comes from a very wealthy family. Acting is her passion. When she enters the Footlights Club, she has never even set foot on a stage. And her family is not so keen on seeing her chase this dream. So, there’s that. But Terry is a strong-willed girl and she’s determined to see what she can make of herself: she’s ready to face
success and she’s ready to face failure. She just wants to figure it all out. She pays her rent and takes a room at the Footlights Club. And, to her luck, she’s rooming with none other than Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), the cattiest woman in the house. After exchanging a few cracks with each other, Terry settles in for the long haul.
Having watched this film for a second time, I decided that the rocky friendship of Terry and Jean merits its own little post. Each lady is an ‘anti-damsel’ in her own way. Jean may be a bit hot headed and a total smart aleck, but she’s got a heart of gold underneath all of her tough talk. Terry turns out to be the perfect roommate for Jean because she balances her out well. She’s more of the calm, logical type but she can sure hold her own.
No matter how much they may fight and squabble, they do a great job of looking after each other’s well-being. By the end of the film, both young ladies face personal successes, failures, and a boardinghouse tragedy which rocks each and every girl in the Footlights Club.
I think it’s safe to say that each and every lady of the Footlights Club is an anti-damsel. But Jean and Terry, through their rough beginnings, make the strongest transformation of all. By the end of the film, their lives are changed forever.
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) airs the film every so often, so be on the lookout. If you haven’t seen this one yet, I highly recommend it.
This post is included in the Anti-Damsel Blogathon hosted by moviessilently.com. Be sure to check out the other posts included in this Blogathon.
2 thoughts on “Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers as Anti-Damsels in “Stage Door” (1937)”
I’m glad you wrote about this one. I have a special spot in my heart for it because I played a role in a high school production. Every time I see the movie, I am amazed at how little it has to do with the play. One of the authors, George S Kaufmann, said it should have been called “Screen Door.” But the movie is a lot of fun. I wish Ginger Rogers and Katherine Hepburn could have worked together in other movies.
Thanks for the kind comment, Joe! I’m sure that was a fun production to be in. Yes, they would have been a good pair in other films.