The best part about Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers sharing the screen is Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers sharing the screen with eye masks. The Bryn Mawr alum and the vaudeville girl seem to do scenes well together, sharing a lot of them in the film. That’s making me think that the drama between them off-screen was just for publicity. In their first scene, one woman is unwavering against the other’s tongue lashing. In the next few scenes Terry Randall (Hepburn) and Jean Maitland (Rogers) might as well be sisters.
Terry does take centre stage in this film, the new girl in the Footlight’s Club, a dormitory for stage actresses and dancers in Midtown New York. She ends up stealing both Maitland’s boyfriend and Kay Hamilton’s (Andrea Leeds) role in a new play. And this is why they called the movie “Stage Door” instead of “Stage Stars,” as Terry becomes the latest of replaceable actresses on the Broadway stage. Kay hints that she stole a role from another girl a year before, a passive character in Terry’s rise to fame. Had she lived in this time, Kay would be the kind of girl you would unfriend on Facebook, but you cannot help but feel sorry for her. At the end of the film, another new girl comes into the house, and we wonder if Terry’s stardom might be over soon.
That doesn’t mean that Jean’s not a treat. No new girl can stop her from practically ruling the Footlight’s Club. You can listen to her quick wit directed at some of the boarders, or watch her dance away from a stage manager twice her age. She also knows how to say the right thing quickly when she’s the house’s shoulder to cry on.
I saw this film again after reading this article from next month’s Vanity Fair, which is a depressing read by the way. Beautiful dresses, young girls, broken dreams. Both times seeing the movie I wondered if it is time for a remake – the source material is a play after all. Maybe the movie is gonna be about actresses again but it could be for models too. I read a lot about how miserable those girls could be when on their own.