1930s Film, 1940s Film

How To Live Life Like You’re In A Screwball Comedy

Escape the Mundane in Five Easy Steps.

So, your life has become slow and you don’t know how to get it to its former sharpness. You’ve come to see me because you’ve heard that I have an easy solution to your problem. Well, it won’t be easy, but it can be quick if you can think on your feet. My solution is all about thinking on your feet and being on your feet (typically running around).

With my quick and (sometimes) painless remedy, your days will never see dullness again. What I recommend is getting into the Screwball Comedy Lifestyle to feel better. Screwball comedy films were extremely popular in the 1930s and ’40s. Their stories often involved a “battle of the sexes” plot along with quick and witty dialogue, steamy chemistry, and some kind of quirky/over-the-top storyline.

Here’s how you can see better results in just two weeks with my new (and not patented) Screwball Comedy Lifestyle Guide:

1. Fall Completely In Love (But Accept That it Will Never Not be Complicated)

In many screwball comedy films, the story revolves around a couple of people who madly in love with each other but find themselves in at least one humongous misunderstanding or disagreement – enough to put their relationship or marriage in jeopardy. A properly-lived screwball comedy relationship/marriage will require insane romantic chemistry, a zany brain, and an undeniable hunger for adventure.

Despite the fighting, arguing, and possible cross-country shenanigans, you will eventually fall back into each other’s arms – I guarantee it. Find someone who will run after you like Joel McCrea’s character does in The Palm Beach Story (1942).

*Falling in love not required, but highly recommended


2. Embrace Oddness

Like, don’t even try to run away from it if you’ve got it. The ones that have fun in screwball comedies are usually the ones who just go with it. Going with it may get you in trouble, so be wary of that. Or not. Don’t be wary. I don’t know. Just be whatever. Have a ball! Take inspiration from this scene in The Philadelphia Story:

3. Wear Cool + Dorky Glasses

Dorky glasses = cool glasses. No argument. A prime example of this is Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby (1938). Wear something like this and you’re on your way to become screwball amazingness. Run around like a maniac in the middle a high society party with these glasses on and you’re set for life.

4. Sit By Interesting People on the Bus

As painful as it may sound (I warned you!) this will get you far in a screwball comedy lifestyle. You’ve got to sit by a person like Mr. Shapely from It Happened One Night (1934) at least once in your life. It may be horrible at the time, but you will look back at it and laugh.

5. Get Into a Ridiculous Fight and Tell Someone They Look Like Boris Karloff

This one is at your own risk, but it’s highly recommended if you would like to live out a complete screwball comedy lifestyle. You certainly do not have to go out and pull an Arsenic and Old Lace (1941) stunt, but do so if you please and only if it enhances your life. Throw stuff, yell, etc. If you want to go a step further, tell someone that he/she looks like Boris Karloff and see what happens.

☆ Happy Screwball Living! ☆

This post was originally published on Odyssey on August 30, 2016. 

1930s Film, Pre-Code Hollywood


 “And she gave up a million bucks for that. The poor sap.”

When you hear the name Frank Capra, what’s the first movie you think of?

For many people, it’s his 1946 Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life or his patriotic 1939 hit Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

5164PhRtw2L          Smith_goes

In The Miracle Woman, one of Capra’s earlier and lesser-known films, one can see theThe_Miracle_Woman_1931_Poster style which he progressively popularized in his films begin to blossom onscreen. His themes of optimism and goodwill would later become synonymous with his very name and if you’re familiar enough with at least some of his other films, you will see that, indeed, there is a Capra touch.

The well-cast Barbara Stanwyck plays a con artist disguised as a popular traveling evangelist named Florence Fallon. After Florence’s elderly father – the longtime minister of a church – is cast aside by the parish to make way for a newer and younger preacher, Florence addresses the congregation and informs them that her father has just died and was heartbroken by the way he had been treated by the church’s members.

She makes the speech of all speeches to disavow their iniquity and literally runs them out of the church.


Ultimately, because of the church’s behavior, she becomes bitter, turns her back on God and – with the help of a seasoned conman – seeks to avenge her father by packing the house in her own traveling temple and scamming Christians around the United States.


The conman, named Bob Hornsby (Sam Hardy), becomes – in a sense – her boss. He gives Florence a total makeover, changing her name to Sister Fallon, training her on how to act, and dressing her in white, angelic gowns. She takes on the persona of a faith healer and plays it like a pro.



Sister Fallon invites Christians around the nation to her “Temple of Happiness”, which is where she performs her spirited (and 100% scripted) religious ceremonies and performs phony “miracles”. She and Hornsby hire actors who are planted in the audience to appear as enthusiastic Christians in order to make it that much more believable.


Her resentment toward Christians is tested when she meets a blind World War I veteran named John Carson (David Manners).

John is the antithesis of everything Florence presently stands for: He is kind, honest, and faithful.


Ironically, John was saved from committing suicide when he heard fabricated words of hope spoken by “Sister Fallon” in a sermon via a neighbor’s radio as he was about to jump out of a window in his apartment.

When he tells Florence that she saved his life, she is floored and humbled. John is a genuinely good man and his renewed faith makes Florence realize that there are still good people in the world and that, deep down, she is one of them. However, she keeps up the persona of Sister Florence but begins to feel more and more guilty about it.

The two become fond of each other and quickly fall in love. John (and his ventriloquist dummy, Al) make Florence laugh at a time when she didn’t think she could anymore.


Finally, Florence stands up to Hornsby and decides that she’s going to tell her “followers” the truth about who she really is and that she has deceived them.

While all of this is going on, John selflessly pretends that his sight has been miraculously restored so that Florence will gain back her own faith. However, when his plan slips and he has a mishap, Florence bursts into tears of gratitude, hugs him tightly, and reassures him that he has shown her that miracles are real.

“You’ve made me see.” – Florence

Of course, Hornsby won’t give up without a fight. Out of anger, he knocks John out in Florence’s dressing room and makes a move to shut off the lights while Florence is making her confession, but he accidentally sets the place on fire.



When the entrance becomes blocked, everyone panics – except for Florence. With her newfound faith, she begins to sing hymns and urges everyone else to join her. With her singing, she guides them out of the building and into safety.

The fire begins to spread throughout the entire structure and it becomes engulfed with flames. Fortunately, John regains consciousness in the nick of time and follows Florence’s voice to find her. She passes out just before he reaches her but he picks her up and rushes out of the building just before its total demise.

The ending is totally Capra and it makes my heart happy.

Six months after the devastating fire, Florence is seen proudly working for the Salvation Army by none other than Hornsby.

She also receives a telegram from John…


“And she gave up a million bucks for that. The poor sap.”


Indeed, the poor sap…



1930s Film, Star Profiles

The Marx Brothers: A Love Story

Mrs. Rittenhouse, ever since I met you, I’ve swept you off my feet.

I feel like anyone who is a fan of the Marx Brothers remembers when they first watched their movies and have vivid memories of it. I know I do.

See, when it happened, I didn’t plan on checking out several of their Paramount films on DVD. But one day in the summer of 2011 – a few months before I would begin my senior year of high school – they somehow caught my attention and I snatched them up.

For those of you reading who may not be too familiar with the Marx Bros, their Paramount films were done at the beginning of their film careers. They began there in 1929 with the film The Cocoanuts and remained through 1933 with the release of one of their most popular comedies, Duck Soup. I watched The CocoanutsAnimal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), and Duck Soup first. I loved every movie, but I was especially taken with Animal Crackers and The Cocoanuts.

To talk about a couple of those films…

Animal Crackers (1930) is actually my favorite Marx Brothers film. It’s not their strongest one, but it kills me. I think I love it so much because it’s just basically Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo running around a mansion (owned by a Margaret Dumont character, no less) for ninety-seven minutes, causing mayhem and throwing around sidesplitting one-liners – usually at the expense of unamused house guests.


The Cocoanuts (1929) is by no means a spectacular production on film – it’s clunky all over, which is understandable for an early talkie musical based on a stage play, but it’s total madcap fun and there are some hilarious one-liners tossed around. The boys are just getting going too, and it’s cool to think about how far they’d go after ’29.

I got hooked on watching these guys throughout my senior year – what a vice! It seemed like I couldn’t stop watching their movies, talking about them, or reading about them.

I read several books, including Chico Marx’s daughter’s recollections of living with her father, who really was a genius (but also a Lothario) in real life.


To this day, Harpo’s autobiography Harpo Speaks! remains one of my favorite books. In it, he fleshes out the life he shared with his brothers, mother, father, and extended family in New York City and continued through his later years. It’s filled with humor and a lot of hear. I highly recommend it to any fan. You’ll adore the man behind the trenchcoat, top hat, and harp.


At some point, I need to read more about Groucho.

I’ve noticed that hardcore fans tend to debate over which era was the best for the Brothers in film: the Paramount era versus the MGM era. After Duck Soup, The Brothers moved over to MGM in 1935. Their other most popular film, A Night at the Opera, was released that year. In my opinion, their Paramount films (1929 – 1933) are far superior. When they moved over to MGM, their creative rights were traded in to ensure that there was a thicker plot in each film. Basically, more love subplots. Ehhhhh. In doing this, most of their MGM films were actually much weaker than their Paramount films.

With that said, my personal favorite Marx Brothers MGM flick is actually A Day at the Races (1937). Although it’s not as solid as their earlier work, there are some great scenes and jokes in it.

I have to say that I wholeheartedly enjoy the musical number shared between Allan Jones and Maureen O’Sullivan. It’s just so optimistic and emotional all at the same time.

And there’s that incredible swing dance number performed by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, which is still a marvel to watch eighty years later.

Besides their jokes, it’s important to remember that the Marx Brothers were also incredibly talented musicians. In many of their films, they often took time out of the madcap plot lines to serenade the audience with the piano, harp, and voice.

Just watch Harpo sit down at his harp and see how he gets so into playing each piece. You can see the “real” Harpo come through every time.

Chico’s ability to “shoot” the keys when he plays the piano is fascinating to watch. Bonus points go to him for making flirtatious facial expressions while he’s playing.

Groucho often got to sing and dance and his numbers, of course, were typically over-the-top and funny as all get-out.

Zeppo was said to have actually been the funniest of the brothers. However, in the five films he appeared in, Zeppo always played the straight man. Either way, he definitely had a fine singing voice and used it several times in his movie appearances.

I want to thank Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, Margaret Dumont, Thelma Todd, and everyone else featured on and off screen in the Marx Brothers’ films. I fell in love with the Marx Brothers pretty early on in my reintroduction to the Golden Age of Hollywood and they will always hold a special place in my heart. (Would Groucho approve of such a cheesy statement? Hey, it’s true!)

What’s your favorite Marx Brothers film and/or “era”? Let me know in the comments!

Image result for marx brothers rare

1930s Film


One recent rainy/chilly Sunday afternoon, I sat down on the couch and made the decision as to what movie I should watch on the DVR. Well, I ended up choosing a black & white romance that I had never heard of before taping it on TCM.

Four Daughters (1938) was directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct some of the biggest movies of all time, including Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), and White Christmas (1954). The movie stars three of the four Lane Sisters (Priscilla, Lola, and Rosemary) and Gale Page as the Lemp sisters. The Lemp girls are the daughters of Adam Lemp (Claude Raines), a serious but loving father who is the dean of the Briarwood Music Foundation. They live with Adam’s witty sister, Etta (May Robson).

Adam Lemp (Claude Rains) surrounded by his daughters: (L-R) Ann (Priscilla Lane), Thea (Lola Lane), Kay (Rosemary Lane), and Emma (Gale Page)

Adam’s daughters inherited his talent and love for music and their house is rarely silent because of it. Along with the girls’ zest for music, they have men on their brains.

The first to be formally courted is Thea (Lola Lane). Thea is one of the sisters who appears not to be interested in letting romance come in the way of a good marriage. She catches the eye of Mr. Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh), a well-meaning older man well on his way to making good money. What Thea wants in life is stability and she knows she can get it in marrying Mr. Crowley.

The eldest daughter, Emma (Gale Page), knows that kind and sensitive neighbor Ernest (Dick Foran) is in love with her, but she doesn’t really feel the same about him. Ernest works as a florist and often makes a detour to personally give her a bouquet of flowers at her doorstep.

Youngest daughter, Ann (Priscilla Lane), not interested in getting married, vows to Emma that they will become old maids together. Soon after making her vow, a young man named Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn) makes his way to the neighborhood. Felix, a composer of popular music, is the son of one of Adam’s old friends. He is cute, charming, and knows how to craft a witty sentence. He even bewitches Aunt Etta (their interactions are adorable). The Lemp family take him in as a border, where he continues his work in music. Felix, being the charming man that he is, accidentally leads on all of the daughters. (That’s not sarcasm; he sincerely doesn’t mean it.) Ann is the one who truly loves him, but her sisters also temporarily fall under his spell.

Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn)

Kay (Rosemary Lane) is the only daughter who takes a different path. As the most talented daughter, she has been offered a scholarship for a music school but has not decided if she wants to attend or not.

Enter Mickey Borden (John Garfield, in his first movie role). Mickey is a cynical orchestral arranger who believes that everything bad that has happened to him in life has been dealt by fate and that there’s no getting around his misfortunes. Ann makes an effort to cheer him up and look at life more lightheartedly. Through this, Mickey falls for her.

At the same time, Felix has been in love with her and proposes marriage to her. Will she choose one or the other or neither…?

Felix and Ann

So, yeah, things begin to get tangled up, the girls get jumbled up in their feelings, and feelings get hurt. A tragedy occurs near the end of the movie, but overall it’s a sweet and lighthearted story.

Some Thoughts

Four Daughters was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for John Garfield’s performance. Claude Raines gives a good performance as always, but his part is overshadowed by most of the other characters. Priscilla Lane is a darling and plays the part of the optimistic kid sister well. Besides P.L., Jeffrey Lynn’s character was my favorite. I see why all of the sisters fell for him. The movie isn’t the greatest, but I really did enjoy it. Because of its sentimentality and lovely winter scenes, I’d be okay with watching it around Christmas every year. Oh, and I’ll definitely be watching the sequel, Four Wives (1939) and Four Mothers (1941). More to come on those.

RATING (out of four): ★★★ 

1930s Film, Star Profiles

Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937)

Image result for stella dallas imdb

Barbara Stanwyck is known for many roles: from her Pre-Code days up until her part in the popular 1960s Western television show The Big Valley, she could do it all.

There’s a role of hers which I feel is often overlooked and totally underrated: the titular character in Stella Dallas (1937).


Stella Dallas is the story of a young lady named Stella Martin, who’s in love with a formerly wealthy factory mill owner named Stephen Dallas (John Boles). She’s of lower class status but desperately dreams of upper class living.

The film is set in post-World War I Massachusetts. Stephen is in mourning: his father has committed suicide after losing his fortune. After falling out of high society, Stephen aims to regain his fortune and then marry his fiancee. But when news comes of his fiancee marrying another man, Stephen and Stella marry.

Once they’re married, Stella quickly falls into a bad pattern. She loves to socialize and meet high society people, but she often goes overboard. Embarrassed by her behavior, Stephen pleads with Stella to return to her more humble roots and become more refined. Within the first year of their marriage, she gives birth to a daughter named Laurel. Immediately after returning from the hospital–baby in arms–Stella begs Stephen to let her go to a party. He refuses to let her go, but she argues and finally gets her way.

We see the years progress through Laurel’s growth. Once she becomes a young lady, we see actress Anne Shirley enter the picture. Shirley did a great job portraying the Dallas’ daughter. By the time she appears onscreen, we see Stella and Stephen’s marriage dissolving. Eventually the split becomes permanent. Laurel lives with her mother and visits her father on occasion. She loves both of them; however, her relationship with Stella becomes a bit strained once she begins socializing with her peers in her teenage years. She befriends kids in more refined circles and falls in love with a young man who comes from a wealthy family. Adding to the pressure, Stella’s behavior is becoming more and more vulgar, causing Laurel to push her mother into the shadows.

To put a further strain on the situation, Stephen runs into his ex-fiancee, who has a family. They quickly become reacquainted and fall in love all over again. And the story goes on, and the tears begin to fall.

Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar four times but she never won one in her long and successful screen career. Stella Dallas was the first role that she was nominated for an Oscar. Luise Rainer took the Oscar home that year for her role in The Good Earth (1937).

Stanwyck’s role in this film is a little reminiscent of some of her roles in the early ’30s. She was one of the queens of the Pre-Code era. Stanwyck often played nitty gritty characters in her early Hollywood days.

As shown in the clip below, Stella tries her best to raise her daughter but she doesn’t always make great decisions. Her husband disapproves of the company she keeps, seeing them as a rowdy crowd. She’s so natural in her performance:

As the movie progresses, Stella seems to get zanier by the minute. I think that’s mostly due to the fact that we – the audience – are seeing her through the eyes of a growing Laurel. Laurel is surrounded by friends from “respectable” families and feels a great deal of pressure from that. She loves her mother so much, but she decides to make some tough decisions that hurt them both.

Throughout it all, Stella actually does grow. She remains “different” in her ways, but she makes a tough realization and a noble decision by the end of the film. If you’ve seen the film, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I highly recommend watching it to find out what I mean.

Don’t watch this scene if you don’t want the end of the film spoiled. If you do want to watch it and you’ve never seen it before, I will now allow Ms. Barbara Stanwyck to rip your heart out:


1930s Film

The William Wellman Blogathon: “A Star is Born” (1937)


Rural North Dakota, 1937: Esther Blodgett (Janet Gaynor) dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress, much to her family’s dismay. Her Grandmother (May Robson) is the only one in the family who supports her ambition. And she’s vocal about it. Right from the get-go, she defends Esther after her other family members tease her and she literally convinces Esther to take the train to Hollywood immediately.

So, off she goes to Tinseltown. It’s a wonderland filled with sun and, well, movies. Esther wastes no time.

astarisbornscreencap          astarisbornscreencap5

She finds a hotel and immediately goes in search of a career in the film business. She heads over to the Central Casting Corporation to figure out how to become a film extra. She’s greeted with a grim reality: Work in Hollywood is tough to find. The Central Casting clerk (portrayed by Peggy Wood, who would go on to play the Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music) tells Esther: “You know what your chances are? One in a hundred thousand.”, to which Esther retorts, “But maybe I’m that one.” Soon after, she meets a lovable guy named Danny McGuire (Andy Devine) who just so happens to be an assistant film director. They hit it off and become fast friends. Danny gets Esther a gig as a waitress at a Hollywood party.

Norman “turns up” at the party.

Esther and the audience soon meet the illustrious but troubled movie star Norman Maine (Fredric March). Esther first spots Norman at the Hollywood Bowl, who drunkenly attended a show with his insufferable girlfriend. Anyway, back to the party: Norman’s eyes practically light up at the sight of Esther. After pulling one of his usual drunken stunts, Norman plans on getting drunk at the party right away. But his attention soon turns completely to Esther. He helps her put dishes away in the kitchen but after one dish breaks, he basically says, “Screw it”, knocks the rest of the dishes onto the floor, and leads Esther outside to ditch the party. I’m not sure what happens after the party (I’m not sure anything does), but Norman drops her off at the hotel and decides he’s going to help get Esther a job as an actress.   astarisbornscreencap9

The next morning rolls around and Esther finds herself in a major Hollywood studio doing a screen test with the one and only Norman Maine. Nervous and innocent, Norman calms her fears and tells her she’s going to be great. The studio loves her. Esther signs a contract and becomes Vicki Lester, the rising star of Hollywood. Her first motion picture sees her co-starring with Norman. We see the dark side of Norman start to appear more prominently at this point. People are starting to notice Vicki Lester, but they’re starting to forget about Norman Maine. astarisbornscreencap14

We also see love blossoming. But is love enough to save Norman Maine from a declining career in movies? You’ve got to watch to find out.

Fredric March and Janet Gaynor are fantastic as an onscreen couple. Although both of them give great performances, I think March makes the biggest impact in the film. His performance is fascinating; much subtler (IMO) than James Mason’s Norman Maine in the 1954 remake. On a side note, I think Mason does a great job, as well. I just think Fredric March is even better in the role. astarisbornscreencap15

Since A Star is Born is in the public domain, you can find a handful of prints on YouTube, so it won’t cost you a thing to watch it. If you can’t already tell, I highly recommend watching it.

Special thanks to Now Voyaging for hosting this blogathon and congrats on hosting her first ever blogathon!

1930s Film

The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon: “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938)

Frank Capra's
Frank Capra’s “You Can’t Take It with You,” which starred Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart, Jean Arthur and Edward Arnold, won the Academy Award® for Best Picture in 1938. (Courtesy of doctormacro.com)

You Can’t Take It With You (1938) tells the story of two young adults: Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) and Tony Kirby (Jimmy Stewart). Tony is the son of wealthy, greedy banker Anthony P. Kirby (Edward Arnold) and his stuffy wife (Mary Forbes). Alice comes from a family that is completely opposite of Tony’s. The Sycamore family is delightfully eccentric. The rest of the family includes Alice’s mother Penny (Spring Byrington), her father Paul (Samuel S. Hinds), her sister Essie Mae (portrayed by a 15 year old Ann Miller), and Essie’s husband Ed Carmichael (Dub Taylor). The Sycamore family has many friends, who are often seen coming in and out of the home at any given time of the day. Some actually live in the house. Yeah, it’s basically a commune.

So, what connection do these two families have? It’s fairly simple…in a complicated way. Tony and Alice have fallen hard for each other and plan to marry. Alice is a stenographer working for the Kirby company. Tony is serving as vice-president of his father’s company. Tony’s father has secured a government-sanctioned munitions monopoly, meaning he is planning on buying up a big block of property around a competitive factory in order to drive them out of business. This block of property happens to include the Sycamore’s house. The only problem: the Sycamore family refuses to give up their property to Kirby (unbeknownst to Anthony, even after meeting the Kirby family). Enter Alice’s grandfather–Martin Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore).

Grandpa Vanderhof is…well, I guess what you’d say is he’s more open-minded and free-thinking than Tony’s parents. He acts as the head of the family, serving as a father figure to Alice and everyone else. Despite his “social status”, he doesn’t let anything get him down, no matter how tough things may get. Vanderhof explains that he was once similar to Tony’s father: caught in a love affair with the almighty dollar. But one day he simply became disinterested in money. He walked away from his job position and never returned. Since that day many years ago, Grandpa Vanderhof spends his time doing important things that make him and, most importantly, his family happy.

Lionel Barrymore (courtesy of flickr.com/photos/tom-margie)
Lionel Barrymore
(courtesy of flickr.com/photos/tom-margie)

I really fell for You Can’t Take It With You when I first watched it because of how it depicts Alice’s family. We’re not laughing at them because they’re eccentric; we’re going along for the ride with them and we’re all enjoying it. Sometimes films and books portray odd people as being freaks. But this one tells us that it’s not only okay to be different, it can be really cool. Essie Mae dances pirouettes around the living room, Ed plays his xylophone, and mother Penny writes all kinds of plays on a typewriter that had been accidentally delivered to the house years before.

Lionel Barrymore, per usual, gives an outstanding performance as Grandpa V. Audiences today are most familiar with his role of the vindictive Mr. Potter in Frank Capra’s holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Eight years before he became Potter, he played a man who was the total opposite of Potter. Grandpa Vanderhoff stands for a sort of bohemian lifestyle which is a really interesting thing to see in a movie from the late 1930s, at least in my mind. He doesn’t give a crap about money or social status and he openly questions the motives of the government, which you will see in the clip below.

Although this film was released in 1938, I’m sure at least one person who reads this hasn’t watched the film. So, I’ll put out a pretty weak spoiler alert from this point on –

I’m going to jump to the final scene of the movie just to illustrate the importance of Lionel Barrymore’s Grandpa Vanderhoff. After holding out on Kirby, Grandpa relents and decides to give up the house. Tony’s dad finally comes around, literally and figuratively. Alice has fled town for an uncertain amount of time and Tony has been beside himself trying to locate her. The story culminates when Alice returns home briefly, Tony sees her, and Tony’s dad enters the house. Alice is distressed because she’s sick of Tony’s parents not accepting her family. Tony is distressed because he wants to marry her no matter what his parents say. Mr. Kirby surprises everyone when he sits down beside Grandpa and the two play a harmonica duet. He finally gives his blessing over Tony and Alice’s engagement. The two families are finally in harmony.

This post is included in The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon, hosted by “In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood” (crystalkalyana.wordpress.com). Be sure to check out the other participating blogs!

1930s Film, Star Profiles

Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers as Anti-Damsels in “Stage Door” (1937)

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.

courtesy of doctormacro.com

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

Terry (Hepburn) and Jean (Rogers) face off from the beginning as new roommates. (courtesy of doctormacro.com)
Terry (Hepburn) and Jean (Rogers) face off from the beginning as new roommates.
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

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.