Gregory La Cava’s Stage Door has an almost surreal atmosphere to it, as it comes across as a film that could come out today and be nearly exactly the same. A mix of young aspiring actresses all living together in a theatre-based hostel, showing their high points and their lows. The behaviours of these women strays from the norm (of what I’ve seen, at least,) for women at that time. Almost every one of them is snarky beyond belief, and it is a joy to watch. They are not quiet, and polite. They’re loud, vivacious, exceedingly sarcastic, and their jokes are told in rapid fire succession.
In that respect, there are also barely any male characters present, aside from Adolphe Menjou’s Anthony Powell. Even so, the women still make up the majority of the screen time, and seeing their interactions with each other was a delight. Whether it be them arguing, joking, celebrating, rehearsing, sharing tender, emotional moments together, it’s something I find rare, even in films coming out today, a great 80 years later. While Stage Door definitely has comments to make about the entertainment industry, at its core, and its most meaningful, it is about the relationships, whether they be good or bad, between these women living at the hostel.
Two dynamics I particularly liked were between Jean and Terry and Jean and Linda. They managed to be both strikingly different and yet in some ways, very similar. I loved how there were relationships between the girls that were loving, and some that were competitive, and spiteful, or that were both at the same exact time. The bickering between some of the girls wasn’t irritating to watch either, it was humorous and added to how interesting the dynamics were further.
It meant a lot to me to be able to watch a film like this, about women, and have them and the bond between them all be portrayed in such a great light. While Powell is a part of this, he only serves as a romantic interest to push the plot forward, which I also think is intriguing for a film of its time.
The tragedy of Kay only adds depth to the bond between the theatre girls, and their overwhelming love and care they have for her is a distinct opposition in comparison to the bitterness felt towards characters like Terry. Similarly, Kay’s story is also a direct opposite in terms of tone, as the rest of the film is almost always amusing. Their relationship with Kay nearly feels admirable, as they all but leave her out of some of their snarky comments towards each other.
Stage Door is a film you must not miss out on. For 1937 its treatment of female characters and the way they are portrayed is just fantastic, and while a couple of the rivalries between the girls are about men, nothing in this film feels particularly outdated or in any way misogynistic to me. The characters are all individually unique and are allowed to let each of their (usually cynical and sarcastic) personalities shine through. I ended up loving all of the female characters in this, and I 100% would watch a film of just them interacting.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by Gregory La Cava
Screenplay by Morrie Ryskind, Anthony Veiller, from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman
Produced by Pandro S. Berman
Starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou
Release Year: 1937
Running Time: 92 minutes