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In New York, a surly, down-on-his-heels playwright meets a country girl who's giving up trying to act and returning home. He goes with her for inspiration when his agent convinces a stage star to take his next effort. When he returns to Broadway, his girl stays behind and starts seeing a local businessman. Written by
Slim plot of surly writer and no-talent actress from the sticks falling in love is set against the angst of getting a play produced on Broadway amid a flurry of cameos from theater stars.
The writer (Tom Morton) pressures his agent (Agnes Moorehead) into letting him write a play for Tallulah Bankhead, who's looking for a new play. What he comes up with is "Calico and Lust," which of course is a bomb. Along the way he stalks the girl (Mary Murphy) back to Indiana and inflicts himself on her dopey parents (Clinton Sundberg, Rosemary DeCamp) while he writes. She's also courted by a hardware store owner (Herb Shriner) from Fort Wayne. Back in New York he is mothered by a lonely widow (Gertrude Berg) who works the theater crowds on opening night, hoping to drum up support for his lousy play.
Along the way, a bunch of real stars plays cameos as they opine about "theater" or get involved in the plot. Helen Hayes opens the film and talks about the closing of the Empire Theater, about to be demolished for an office building. Shirley Booth is starring in that theater's last production ("The Time of the Cuckoo") and chats with autograph seekers about winning a Tony Award and such.
Ethel Barrymore and Louis Calhern somehow get involved in the playwright's life (they bail him out of jail) and chat with Lionel Barrymore (in his last screen appearance). Others show up to chat about "theater" or to appear in the opening night crowd scenes.
We see Faye Emerson doing a radio show, Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer walking down the street talking about supper, Mary Martin singing a song whipped up for her by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Cornel Wilde doing a workshop reading, playwright John Van Druten directing the new play, and Constance Carpenter backstage as the star of "The King and I." Al Hirschfeld is seen drawing caricatures of Bankhead.
Among the opening night attendees are Vivian Blaine, Dolly Haas, Estelle Winwood, Stu Erwin, Elsa Maxwell, Jeffrey Lynn, Maureen Stapleton, Joan McCracken, Peggy Wood, Jessie Royce Landis, and June Collyer. Others with bit parts include Jack Gilford as the ticket seller, Regis Toomey as a cop, Arthur Shields, Florence Bates, Madge Kennedy, Carl Benton Reid, Frank Ferguson, and Lydia Reed.
Mary Murphy had a longish career in films, usually as the "girl-next-door" type in B movies. Her one hit was "The Wild One" with Marlon Brando. Tom Morton made his final major film appearance here but changed his name to Tony Monaco (his character's name) and continued working under both names (mostly in television) thru the late 80s.
But it's Tallulah Bankhead you'll remember from this film. She's hilarious playing herself and seems like quite a good sport caricaturing her own well-known personality.
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