Actress Lucille Ball's birthday is today; she was born 95 years ago, and died in 1989. I'm quite fond of watching the actress in her early films, with amusing supporting roles in movies like Dance, Girl, Dance and the 1937 film Stage Door. Stage Door was originally a Broadway play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, in which aspiring stage actresses fought the demon Hollywood to survive. The film adaptation retained very little of the play -- director Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey) was well-known for his "off-the-cuff" shooting style, and encouraged the team of actresses to contribute their own stories as part of the script. As a result, the ending is not typical or predictable.

Much of Stage Door's action takes place in a women's theatrical hotel, and the inhabitants include Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers (both in the above photo), Constance Collier, Ann Miller (who was all of 14), and Eve Arden. Lucille Ball has a small role as an out-of-work actress from Seattle, considered a hick town back then. Hepburn is the new girl in town, determined to succeed as an actress by using logic and intellect, and constantly sparring with her wisecracking roommate Rogers.

The last time I watched Stage Door, I was surprised by the way that aspects of the plot still felt relevant: the unemployed women trying to survive with a sense of humor reminded me of high-tech workers at happy hour in Austin, for example. Some of the more melodramatic plot elements don't hold up as well, but Stage Door is still quite entertaining ... and available on DVD.
categories Features, Cinematical