Saturday, May 17, 2008

Olde Review: Stage Door

The following was part of a series reviewing the ASUW film series at the University of Washington that were broadcast on KCMU-FM in 1976--I found the old scripts and thought it might be interesting to post them here--with no editorial alteration or comment. I have no doubt that my attitude to some of these films has changed over the years--ageing does that--but to just erase my opinions from back then and tack on my new-found objections would do a disservice to the reviewer who was just a "stinky kid" back then. It'd be like making Greedo shoot first.

"Stage Door" (Gregory LaCava, 1937) It's hard to say what I like best about "Stagedoor"--not the story, it's pretty much the "tough-road-on-the-way-to-success" trope. But the dialogue is original--snappy and delivered at a break-neck pace, sometimes overlapping (and you don't see that very often in modern movies)* It all tends to make watching old-time movies invigorating.

Maybe it's the acting, delivered by an all-star cast headed by Ginger Rogers (again), Gail Patrick as a primary sufferer, Lucille Ball as a wicked-tongued Seattle-ite (but don't hold it against me), (and) Eve Arden as an aspiring actress who is permanently attached to a cat. All live together in verious stages of animosity when Katherine Hepburn makes another of her grand entrances and proceeds to steal the movie as easily as candy from a bunch of talented babies. Her role is somewhat autobiographical--rich society girl trying to make it into acting because it's a thrill and it's different. To see newcomer Hepburn--a small strap of a girl squaring off against a star-since-silent-days Adolphe Menjou and run acting rings around him is a certifiable thrill. It's Hepburn that is best about this movie, but then Hepburn has always been one of the best things about the movies.
* Well, you did if you saw any Robert Altman movies at the time, and I'm sure I did--at least "Nashville" and "California Split" and "M*A*S*H" and "The Long Goodbye!" But the last movie I saw where the movie was seriously over-lapping and going at this pace was Clooney's "Leatherheads" (I think I was the only one...)

I notice I neglected to mention such stars of the future as Ann Miller and Jack Carson (one of my favorites). Well, these things could only be two minutes long...and it should be noted that this is the film where the Hepburn trademark line "The calla lilies are in bloom a-gain!" came from. Any actress or comedian who wanted to do a quick impression of Katherine Hepburn (in the days before Martin Short) would just say that line and people would immediately get the connection.

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