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HISTORY

Contemporary and modern sources state that George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Broadway stage play, which had starred Margaret Sullavan and Phyllis Brooks, was altered radically for the screen. According to a production article in MPH , director Gregory LaCava "participated" in the "preparation" of the film script, for which "an entirely new plot" was "conceived and developed." Modern sources state that, two weeks prior to shooting, LaCava had the actors improvise many scenes at the studio and ordered his cast to interact with each other as they might if they were actually rooming together. Then, using transcripts of the actors' conversations, LaCava adapted the improvisations into dialogue. According to modern sources, Katharine Hepburn jotted down lines and bits of business before and after each day's shooting and, after discussing them at length with LaCava, memorized them. During filming, LaCava continued to re-write the script on a day-by-day basis, according to modern sources. The NYT reviewer commented that the film script was "wittier than the original [stage play], more dramatic than the original, more meaningful than the original, more cogent than the original." The NYT reviewer also noted that the film lacked the play's anti-Hollywood jokes. S. K. Lauren and William Slavens McNutt are listed in early submissions to SAB as "contributing writers." The exact nature of their contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       According to a Nov 1936 HR news item, Burgess Meredith was considered for a role in the picture. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was considered for the role of "Tony Powell," but lost the part to Adolphe Menjou, according ... More Less

Contemporary and modern sources state that George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's Broadway stage play, which had starred Margaret Sullavan and Phyllis Brooks, was altered radically for the screen. According to a production article in MPH , director Gregory LaCava "participated" in the "preparation" of the film script, for which "an entirely new plot" was "conceived and developed." Modern sources state that, two weeks prior to shooting, LaCava had the actors improvise many scenes at the studio and ordered his cast to interact with each other as they might if they were actually rooming together. Then, using transcripts of the actors' conversations, LaCava adapted the improvisations into dialogue. According to modern sources, Katharine Hepburn jotted down lines and bits of business before and after each day's shooting and, after discussing them at length with LaCava, memorized them. During filming, LaCava continued to re-write the script on a day-by-day basis, according to modern sources. The NYT reviewer commented that the film script was "wittier than the original [stage play], more dramatic than the original, more meaningful than the original, more cogent than the original." The NYT reviewer also noted that the film lacked the play's anti-Hollywood jokes. S. K. Lauren and William Slavens McNutt are listed in early submissions to SAB as "contributing writers." The exact nature of their contribution to the final film has not been determined.
       According to a Nov 1936 HR news item, Burgess Meredith was considered for a role in the picture. Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was considered for the role of "Tony Powell," but lost the part to Adolphe Menjou, according to a Jun 1937 HR news item. Menjou had played a similar part in RKO's 1933 film Morning Glory , for which Hepburn won an Academy Award. RKO borrowed Andrea Leeds from Samuel Goldwyn's company. HR casting announcements and production charts add Alison Craig, Marjorie Lord, Leona Roberts and Diana Gibson to the cast. A HR news item announced that Leona Roberts was recreating the role she played in the Broadway production. The participation of these actors in the final film has not been confirmed. Stage Door was selected as one of FD 's "ten best pictures of 1937." It was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture but lost to Warner Bros.' The Life of Emile Zola . Andrea Leeds was nominated as Best Supporting Actress by the Academy but lost to Alice Brady in Fox's In Old Chicago. Gregory LaCava was nomiated as Best Director but lost to Leo McCarey for Columbia's The Awful Truth , and Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller were nominated for Best Screenplay but lost to the writers of The Life of Emile Zola .
       Modern sources give the following additional information about the production: Ferber and Kaufman's inspiration for "The Footlights Club" was "The Rehearsal Club," a real-life New York boardinghouse for aspiring actresses. The boardinghouse opened in 1913 and over the years housed many young actresses, including Margaret Sullavan and Sandy Duncan. Because she had suffered a string of box office failures, including Break of Hearts , Quality Street and Mary of Scotland , Hepburn was forced to share top billing with the more popular Ginger Rogers. In her autobiography, Hepburn recalls that on the print that was projected at preview screenings, Rogers actually received top billing. Hepburn was paid $75,000 for her portrayal of "Terry," as was Rogers. Rogers, who was a good friend of Lucille Ball, convinced producer Pandro S. Berman to cast Ball in the film, and Ball's critically lauded performance earned her a renewed contract at RKO. For the play-within-the-film scenes, a re-vamped scene from the third act of The Lake , a stage play that Hepburn had starred in a few years before, was used. (In particular, Hepburn's line "The calla lilies are in bloom again," which is repeated several times in the film, was lifted from The Lake and became a Hepburn tag-line.) One modern source claims that, to provoke genuine tears in Rogers' eyes during the final climactic scene, LaCava told her that her house had burned to the ground. The film made RKO, which had paid $130,000 for the rights to the stage play, a modest $81,000 in box office profits. Modern sources add the following cast members: Jack Gargan and Gerda Mora ( Dancing instructors ) Whitey the Cat ( Eve's cat ), Byron Stevens and D'Arcy Corrigan. In addition, modern sources complete the above cast list with the following role information: Adele Pierce ( Pamela Blake ), Fred Santley ( Dunkenfield ), Lynton Brent ( Aide ), Theodore Von Eltz ( Elsworth ), Jack Rice ( Playwright ), Bob Perry ( Baggageman ), Larry Steers ( Theater patron ), Josephine Whittell and Ada Leonard ( Actresses ), Jack Gardner ( Script clerk ), Ben Hendricks ( Waiter ) and Al Hill Taxi driver ). Modern sources also credit Mel Berns as make-up artist, and John Miehle as still photographer. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
8 Sep 37
p. 3.
Film Daily
13 Sep 37
pp. 5-6
Hollywood Reporter
28 Nov 36
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Feb 37
p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 37
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jun 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Jun 37
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
9 Jun 37
p. 2, 10
Hollywood Reporter
29 Jul 37
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Sep 37
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
9 Sep 37
p. 2.
Motion Picture Herald
14 Aug 37
pp. 16-17.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Sep 37
p. 42.
Motion Picture Herald
25 Sep 37
pp. 29-32.
New York Times
8 Oct 37
p. 27.
Variety
15 Sep 37
p. 13.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATOR
Set dresser
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
DANCE
Dance dir
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Unit mgr
STAND INS
Stand-in for Katharine Hepburn
Stand-in for Ginger Rogers
Stand-in for Adolphe Menjou
Stand-in for Gail Patrick
Stand-in for Olive Hatch
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Stage Door by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman (New York, 22 Oct 1936).
SONGS
"Put Your Heart into Your Feet and Dance," words and music by Hal Borne and Mort Greene.
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 October 1937
Production Date:
7 June--31 July 1937
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
8 October 1937
Copyright Number:
LP7473
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Victor System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
92
Length(in reels):
10
Country:
United States
PCA No:
3486
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

When Terry Randall, an aspiring actress from a wealthy Midwestern family, arrives at the Footlights Club, a modest New York boardinghouse, she is greeted by a bevy of world-weary actresses and chorus girls. Terry's haughty manner and highbrow tastes immediately alienate her from her fellow "troopers," who pride themselves on their sharp wit and down-to-earth style. Particularly leary of Terry is her roommate, Jean Maitland, a wise-cracking dancer who resents Terry's lavish wardrobe and judgmental attitudes. Because of her dubious liaison with theatrical producer Anthony "Tony" Powell, a notorious womanizer, Jean also dislikes another housemate, the sophisticated Linda Shaw. Loved by all of the women, however, is Kay Hamilton, a high-strung but dedicated actress who, although receiving rave notices for a play that she had starred in the previous year, has since been unable to find work. In spite of the pleas of her father, Henry Sims, to return home, Terry vows to remain in New York and make her way as an actress. While Terry is coached by Miss Catherine Luther, a theatrical has-been, Jean is spotted during a dance rehearsal by Powell, who arranges an audition for her and her partner Annie at a nightclub. Later Kay faints in Powell's theatrical offices after she learns that the producer has refused to see her. Furious, Terry bursts into Powell's office and berates him for his callous indifference. Unmoved, Powell dismisses Terry, but when he is approached later by a man representing a potential backer who has made casting Terry a part of his offer, he agrees to star her in his next play, Enchanted April . Powell then invites Jean to ... +


When Terry Randall, an aspiring actress from a wealthy Midwestern family, arrives at the Footlights Club, a modest New York boardinghouse, she is greeted by a bevy of world-weary actresses and chorus girls. Terry's haughty manner and highbrow tastes immediately alienate her from her fellow "troopers," who pride themselves on their sharp wit and down-to-earth style. Particularly leary of Terry is her roommate, Jean Maitland, a wise-cracking dancer who resents Terry's lavish wardrobe and judgmental attitudes. Because of her dubious liaison with theatrical producer Anthony "Tony" Powell, a notorious womanizer, Jean also dislikes another housemate, the sophisticated Linda Shaw. Loved by all of the women, however, is Kay Hamilton, a high-strung but dedicated actress who, although receiving rave notices for a play that she had starred in the previous year, has since been unable to find work. In spite of the pleas of her father, Henry Sims, to return home, Terry vows to remain in New York and make her way as an actress. While Terry is coached by Miss Catherine Luther, a theatrical has-been, Jean is spotted during a dance rehearsal by Powell, who arranges an audition for her and her partner Annie at a nightclub. Later Kay faints in Powell's theatrical offices after she learns that the producer has refused to see her. Furious, Terry bursts into Powell's office and berates him for his callous indifference. Unmoved, Powell dismisses Terry, but when he is approached later by a man representing a potential backer who has made casting Terry a part of his offer, he agrees to star her in his next play, Enchanted April . Powell then invites Jean to dine with him at his penthouse, and to spite Linda, Jean accepts. As predicted by Linda, Powell shows Jean photographs of his young son and estranged wife, plies her with champagne and delivers a "poor little me" routine to seduce her. When Jean slips into teary, drunken babbling, however, Powell sends her home, where Terry puts her to bed with sisterly care. Later Powell invites Terry to his penthouse and tells her that he wants her to star in Enchanted April . During their meeting, Jean storms the apartment and indicts Terry, who acts coy in order to save her roommate from Powell's unscrupulousness. Although suspicious of Powell, whose pose as a married man she quickly exposes, Terry accepts the part, unaware of the backer's request. Although Kay is stunned when she learns that Terry has been cast in the role she has longed to play, she bravely blesses her housemate's debut. In spite of Terry's insipid acting during rehearsals, Powell keeps her in the show and braces himself for a flop. On opening night, Kay advises Terry on how to play the difficult opening scene, then after Terry has left for the theater, jumps to her death. At the theater, Jean accuses Terry of pushing Kay to suicide, and Terry, dazed with guilt, struggles to make her entrance. At last finding inspiration from Kay's tragic sacrifice, Terry gives a moving performance that touches even Jean. For her curtain call, Terry pays homage to Kay and earns the forgiveness of Jean, as well as the approval of her father, who reveals himself as the show's backer. To Powell's disgust, Terry abandons the opening night festivities and, with Jean, says "goodbye" to Kay. A wiser and kinder Terry then is accepted by all at the Footlights Club. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.