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Stage Door(1937)

Playwright George S. Kaufman was so peeved at the changes made to his and Edna Ferber’s original hit play that he quipped they should have called the film “Screen Door.” Many of the changes came from improvisations and adlibs that director Gregory La Cava allowed from his cast in order to provide authentic dialogue among the cast portraying women living together in a show business rooming house. The script by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller was also shaped to fit its two female stars, Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, who struck sparks as a society girl and her working-class roommate, often at odds over how to get ahead in the theater. For the play within a play starring Hepburn, the writers took lines from The Lake, a play she had flopped in on Broadway after becoming a film star. The boarding house setting, the Footlights Club, was based on the Rehearsal Club, a residence for women working in the theater. La Cava filled it with a bevy of young hopefuls on their way to the top, including Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Gail Patrick and Andrea Leeds. He staged their interactions so skillfully that he won the New York Film Critics Award for Best Director and an Oscar nomination. (d. Gregory La Cava, 92m, 35mm) This film will be preceded by the short The Letter (2018) directed by Bill Morrison.

Print courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art. Nitrate projection made possible through support of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies, and The Film Foundation in partnership with the American Cinematheque and the Academy Film Archive.

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