Wednesday, 3 February 2010

A Bevy Girls and Katharine Hepburn

One of the things that seem to be a constant in old movies about women is the witty dialogue. Witty dialogue depends on more than just the strength of the lines on their own, it also lays in the talents of those saying it, and Gregory La Cava hit a veritable goldmine when he decided to direct Stage Door. A few years earlier Katharine Hepburn had made a deplorable Broadway appearance in a play – "The Lake". It had shaken her and made her less confident; however she found it a great lark playing a poor actress in Stage Door – Terry Randall. Stage Door is an ensemble piece, but above all else it’s the story of Terry’s maturity from superficial aspirant actress to the real thing.
The aforementioned witty dialogue is spread among all the girls in the boarding house. Ginger Rogers gives my favourite performance of hers [although, that’s not saying much] as Terry’s loquacious room-mate. Sure I’m a national of Katharine Hepburn country, but the film is an ensemble in every sense of the word. Screenwriter Anthony Veiller] reportedly listened in on the girls’ conversations and tried as much to amend the script to allow their dexterity of speech; and certainly it shows. The script is quick and witty, but it’s more than dialogues. Every movement from these women is real and the chemistry they share is palpable and beautiful to watch.
There is a running gag in Stage Door that’s possibly lost on the layman. When Kate says that legendary line “the calla lilies are in blood again”, it’s a direct visual homage to her disastrous appearance in 'The Lake'. It is goofs like these that permeate Stage Door, the delicious irreverence of the piece is obvious and this is where the charm of it lies. Films about the business are common – but I don’t think anyone dares to deal with the nitty-gritty as much and as well as Stage Door.


joe burns said...

Do you think Hepburn should have been nominated?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

never thought of it actually, it's really ensemble in that no one steals the show. this was during her "box office poison" period though, so there was no chance of a nod.