Gregory LaCava Reinvents Stage Door

Gregory LaCava Reinvents Stage Door
Dreams of making it big as an actress were never as big as they were during the Great Depression. The tougher the times, the bigger the dreams. Director Gregory La Cava capitalized on this fact when he began directing the film version of Stage Door.

Stage Door was originally written and produced as a stage play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufmann. As with many adaptations from stage to screen, the screen version under La Cava took on its own life, departing from many of the key storylines in the stage version.

The New York Times reported that La Cava wanted to create a story that more accurately reflected the desires and sacrifices of young women who wanted a career on the stage.

La Cava reportedly sent staff members to interview real-life struggling actresses in order to add realistic storylines to the script, many of whom fought over too few parts and were often denied the opportunity to audition.

Like many women who were career-minded, the responsibilities of home and family weighed heavy.

But the script wasn’t all doom and gloom. Although Stage Door reflected the reality La Cava wanted to capture, it was a reality wrapped in a cape of hope and laughter – something that the public craved during the uncertain times of the 1930’s.

La Cava was considered one of Hollywood’s finest directors at the time and he knew how to ring comedy out of the direst of circumstances. Besides being an experienced cartoonist, he also had experience as a gag writer.

Laughter was delivered through snappy dialogue – complete with lots of sharp but hilarious wisecracks.

Most of the film takes place in The Footlights Club, a fictitious boarding house for actresses looking for their big break. The promising actresses of the club subsisted on mystery stew, were pursued by unscrupulous backers, and yet they remained oddly optimistic.

The Footlights Club was based on the real-life Rehearsal Club that operated on West 46th Street in New York City.

The film addressed the persistent rivalry that exists between actresses, yet it also showcased the type of support they offered each other when times got hard.

Originally released by RKO, the studios advertised the film as the bringing together three of the screen's “top notch favorites,” meaning Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Adolphe Menjou.

The cast also included well-known actresses Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller, Gail Patrick, Connie Collier, and Andrea Leeds who, incidentally, was the only actress to receive an Academy Award Nomination (Best Supporting Actress) for the film.

Of course, many of the most memorable scenes are between Hepburn and Rogers, but the scenes between Rogers and Patrick are consistently funny and a delight to watch, especially where “Aunt Susan” is involved. Another memorable scene is watching a very young Ann Miller nervously chatter as she dances away from Adolphe Menjou, who plays a lecherous club owner pursuing Patrick, Rogers, and Hepburn.

La Cava was nominated for an Academy Award for Stage Door and won the New York Film Critic’s Circle Award for Best Director for the film.

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