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A vaudeville star has to leave her daughter with her dead husband's stuffy Boston parents while she makes a living. But when the daughter shows some talent, the mother become a stage mother and pushes her daughter into becoming a Broadway star. The mother is a monster with a heart of gold, and after breaking up the daughter's love affair, finally sees the error of her ways. Written by
Husband wife high wire act Freddy and Kitty Lorraine split up the team while she tends to having a child. When dad is killed in a fall she and the new baby move in with his staid New England parents. Buzz killers from the outset Kitty decides to take kid Shirley (Maureen O'Sullivan) on the road and push her into a stage career. With mom managing her career gets traction and she's soon headlining. Making a nostalgic visit to her old home in Boston she meets Warren (Franchot Tone) a painter and the two fall in love. When mom gets wind of it though she puts a stop to it as well as shake down his family for ten grand. Shirley is devastated and seeks to get out from under the influence of her mother.
Stage Mom is Alice Brady's picture as she cajoles and plays hardball with all comers to advance her daughter's career including pimping her to a prominent politician causing things to get hot enough to blow town and head for Europe. Brady's raspy voice suits her hard bargaining style well as she negotiates with some pretty tough customers along the way. O'Sullivan's Shirley is sharp innocent counterpoint to a point of insipid. She dances poorly and remains naive and childlike most of the picture while her suitors (Franchot Tone and Phillip Holmes) can only wish they had a backbone like Kitty.
The dance scenes are flat and uninspired as director Charles Brabin does his best to mask O'Sullivan's abysmal hoofing abilities with close-ups while at the same time offering some pretty racy pre code enforcement shots of the chorus replete in diaphanous costume.
There are a handful of well played scenes (particularly with C. Henry Gordon) in Stage Mother as Brady brawls her way to the top with tough talk and a touch of extortion void of sentiment but in the end it depends on sentimental tug to bring the curtain down and the limpid denouement forcing Kitty to go meekly simply reinforces the films mediocrity.
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