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Stage Door (1937)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama | 8 October 1937 (USA)
A chronicle of the ambitions, dreams, and disappointments of aspiring actresses who all live in the same boarding house.


Gregory La Cava (as Gregory LaCava)


Morrie Ryskind (screen play), Anthony Veiller (screen play) | 2 more credits »

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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Katharine Hepburn ... Terry Randall
Ginger Rogers ... Jean Maitland
Adolphe Menjou ... Anthony Powell
Gail Patrick ... Linda Shaw
Constance Collier ... Miss Luther
Andrea Leeds ... Kay Hamilton
Samuel S. Hinds ... Henry Sims
Lucille Ball ... Judith Canfield
Franklin Pangborn ... Harcourt
William Corson William Corson ... Bill
Pierre Watkin ... Carmichael
Grady Sutton ... Butch
Frank Reicher ... Stage Director
Jack Carson ... Mr. Milbanks
Phyllis Kennedy ... Hattie


Terry Randall, rich society beauty, has decided to see if she can break into the Broadway theatre scene without her family connections. She goes to live in a theatrical boarding house and finds her life caught up with those of the other inmates and the ever-present disappointment that theatrical hopefuls must live with. Her smart-mouth roommate, Jean, is approached by a powerful producer for more than just a role. And Terry's father has decided to give her career the shove by backing a production for her to star in, in which she's sure to flop. But his machinations hurt more than just Terry. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The gaiety...glamour...foolishness and fun of showbusiness...played on the Great White Way See more »


Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

8 October 1937 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Stage Door See more »


Box Office


$952,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In March 1937 movie industry Trade Papers reported that Burgess Meredith had been signed for a leading role in "Stage Door". He ultimately did not appear in the movie. See more »


Right after Ginger Rogers says "Who were you supposed to be?" to Adolphe Menjou, the microphone picks up a loud "clunk" from off screen that sounds like a piece of wood being dropped. See more »


[first lines]
Judy Canfield: Do you have to do that?
See more »

Alternate Versions

SPOILER: A shot of a man mowing the grass around Kay's grave is missing from some versions. See more »


Spoofed in That Girl: Rich Little Rich Kid (1966) See more »


Bridal Chorus (Here Comes the Bride)
(1850) (uncredited)
from "Lohengrin"
Written by Richard Wagner
Sung by the women as Judith leaves to get married
See more »

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User Reviews

A rollicking play about the revolving door of fame.
2 March 2008 | by RJBurke1942See all my reviews

Framed and shot as though a stage play – which it was originally, but much changed for the film – and with a stage play within the staged play, le tout ensemble in this witty farce delivers a virtual non-stop, wise-cracking, virtuoso performance. Timing is everything and in comedy, it's particularly so; and the director, Gregory La Cava – who cut his teeth, in the silent era, as a director beginning in 1916 – doesn't miss a beat with this one.

From a play by Edna Ferber (of Giant fame) and George S. Kaufman, the film tells the story of what happens to a group of aspiring actresses who happen to board at a place called the Floodlights Club in New York City, supposedly. Of course, there are minor players, as in all plays – Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Ann Miller and most of the men, the exception being Adolphe Menjou as a caricature (almost) of the Big Bad Producer of those days. The majors, Katharine Hepburn (as Terry), Ginger Rogers (Jean), Gail Patrick (Linda) and Andrea Leeds (Kay) form the core about which this story revolves.

Which, when all is said and done, is about the ascendancy of Terry as an actress and the decline of Kay as another: out with the old, in with the new, if you will. That would tend to make for a somewhat pedestrian story if it were simply that. Happily, what sets this apart from, say, the almost maudlin characterization by Hepburn in Morning Glory (1933) in a similar situation (for which, however, she did receive a Best Actress award in 1934), is, first, the scintillating dialog. Which means the viewer must really listen: it goes so quickly between characters that you'll miss the one-liners and sight gags if you take a chomp on a sandwich or sip of coffee, or whatever. So, be prepared.

What's left? Well, of course, the great acting by Hepburn, Rogers, Ball, Miller, Menjou, Arden, Patrick and Leeds, the latter getting a Best Supporting nomination for her somewhat overly tearful acting; so much so, she reminded me of Olivia de Havilland, in looks and style.

The direction, already mentioned, is in the hands of an old hand and it shows, explicitly. Add to that the camera work that included almost manic cuts up and down stairs, superb face-on tracking shots and perfect timing while up to a dozen people would mill about in the frame concurrently – and with dialog. Confusing? Perhaps to some. Just concentrate on the majors.

What's more interesting for me, however, is the sub-text of this comedy. Made just before USA finally shook free of the Great Depression, as you listen, you'll hear many references to the hard times: at the Floodlights, everybody is down, but not out; rich and unscrupulous producers just want to use and abuse actresses; the women are all scraping for even the lowliest acting or dancing job at the meanest of wages; despondency and depression are endemic. Despite all of that, the women 'soldier' on, pushing themselves to their emotional and physical limits.

Women in the audience at that time must have felt the pull: don't deny your dreams of self-fulfillment, despite what chauvinistic clods of men might say and do, even powerful men. It's a stirring message, albeit idealistic, but it sets the tone for the larger section of a country that was about to engage in the world war which, in a very real sense, changed the role of women as never before. So, some may die, yes, but the show must go on...

There have been a number of introspective and self-referential films about the acting business, Morning Glory being the earliest I've seen. Others include A Star is Born (made and remade many times), All About Eve (1950) – arguably the best, I think – The Dresser (1983), The Player (1992), and others, but all heavy dramas. So, it's refreshing to find a gem that's prepared to treat the matter lightly, more rather than less.

A final thought: it must have been fun for the actors to act at being actors; it's even more fun to know that the director used much of the banter between the women off-camera to actually use in the film – much to the playwrights' displeasure, so I understand.

Recommended for all.

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