Stage Struck (1958) Poster


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Great Advertisement for New York City - 1958
Eric Chapman21 December 2000
There is a strange artificiality to Susan Strasberg's performance which really throws this movie off kilter. Obviously she's playing a very theatrical young woman who lives for the stage, and in certain scenes (particularly the party scene where she is not only intoxicated from champagne but the dreamy proximity to so many Broadway celebrities) this technique is effective, but she never turns it off. In tender, heartfelt moments with Henry Fonda's seasoned producer and Christopher Plummer's blossoming playwright, both of whom are supposed to be madly in love with her, she's frightfully unresponsive. She's like a pretty little China Doll whose eyes can blink.

Nevertheless, there is much to like about this film. Fonda, Plummer and Herbert Marshall are superb as various incarnations of success who all become enchanted with Strasberg and her bewildering determination to be a star. They are all caught up in the complicated and decidedly unromantic machinery of the theatre world, and she represents the innocence they've either forgotten (Marshall), lost (Fonda), or are in jeopardy of losing (Plummer). (Although again, as Strasberg plays her, the innocence seems like a put-on, a florid, elaborate joke.) Part of the pleasure of the film is seeing Plummer in one of his very first, pre-"Sound of Music" roles. A darkly compelling leading man during this time with brooding traces of the new method acting style, he and the old school Fonda work well together - there's an interesting "passing the torch" dynamic there.

But the real reason to see this film is the stunning location photography of New York City. The director, Sidney Lumet, has always loved the city just as much as Woody Allen, and here it is practically the star. There is an exquisite scene in a snow blanketed park (Central?) that is as vivid as being there.

There is an added poignancy to this picture as Strasberg's part as an actress on the verge of "making it" was, I believe, intended to neatly dovetail with her own emerging stardom. A stardom that was, alas, to be short-lived.
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Badly let down by its central performance
Marco Trevisiol18 July 2007
Before this film, I had seen Susan Strasberg in two late 1960s AIP low-budget films 'The Trip' and 'Psych-Out' and enjoyed her performances in both so was quite interested in seeing her in the starring role here.

Alas, not only is she not up to the task, but she takes down the film with her. Her performance in the first 30 minutes or so is truly wretched; she's so strained and overwrought that it makes one cringe.

To be fair, from the time she does a reading from 'Romeo & Juliet' (which is quite charming) her performance settles down somewhat but the damage is done. After all, it's in the opening scenes where we're supposed to believe that she wins over Herbert Marshall as a close friend and enchants Plummer and Fonda but her performance kills any chance of that being convincing and the film never recovers.

However, the film is still fairly entertaining. While Fonda seems rather too genial to convince as a Broadway producer he's always entertaining to watch and helps hold the film together. And Joan Greenwood does a nice balancing act as she gives a melodramatic performance yet still lined with depth.

And, as other reviewers have mentioned, director Sidney Lumet puts in some nice touches with the detail he displays in the preparation that goes behind the scenes for opening night.

Also of interest is that it was released as an RKO picture and was probably close to the very last film released by that studio.
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a cliché of a cliché of a cliché
jgepperson23 January 2005
Poor Susan Strasberg. She had not an easy life. She was so lovely. But her delivery in this movie - a remake of a Katharine Hepburn 30s vehicle called "Morning Glory" - is simply not good. It doesn't help that the script is a cliché of a cliché of a cliché, if there is such a thing. Henry Fonda does the best he can with the bad, hoary lines. The supporting cast of Joan Greenwood and Christopher Plummer are excellent and fascinating as usual, but they're stuck with bad lines. In Greenwood's case, bad lines complaining about bad lines!!! And even though Fonda is good, you can't believe Susan would really go for him.

The best thing about the movie is the scene backstage towards the end when the show that might make Strasberg a star, is just about to start. The movie's director shows the stagehands being called their cues by the stage manager, and you get the suspense of what it's like to be backstage just before the curtain goes up.

The stage manager by the way is played by Jack Weston, who played a stage manager the next year in Douglas Sirk's "Imitation of Life," which is also about "the theatuh," and in its complex phoniness and artificiality it rings truer than "Stage Struck." Beloved Herbert Marshall is also in this movie and you can see very easily that he is really walking on a wooden leg.

The street scenes of New York are interesting in this movie. Also interesting is the name of a Greenwich Village nightclub where Strasberg cringingly reads poetry and verse: The Village Voice!
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A Little Romance Added To The Theater
bkoganbing24 August 2008
Although Susan Strassberg has been unfairly compared to Katharine Hepburn from the original Morning Glory, it's not quite a fair comparison. Forgetting that there is no one like Hepburn, Strassberg does do a decent job with the material given in Stage Struck. The problem is that the story has been changed and not for the better.

Romance was added to this production and it weakens the basic story of a young girl who is so single minded in her determination to be a success in the theater. The characters played by Adolphe Menjou and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in Morning Glory are now played by Henry Fonda and Christopher Plummer. The producer and the playwright now engage in a rivalry for Strassberg which weakens the story.

In the original Morning Glory it's made clear from the beginning that Menjou is a love 'em and leave 'em type and he's really got no interest in Hepburn in that direction as he sees she's not the type. Pipe smoking Fairbanks after Hepburn makes good would like to get something going with her, but she's into her art first and for always.

But Fonda and Plummer have a civilized rivalry for Strassberg and the story is which one will she choose. That I'm not telling.

Stage Struck has some nice location shots of New York in the late Fifties, Broadway and the Greenwich Village area and a bit of Park Avenue. Joan Greenwood is here as the star who falters and allows Strassberg her big break. Greenwood's quirky personality that British films utilized so well is strangely missing here. Herbert Marshall is great as the older actor that C. Aubrey Smith played in Morning Glory.

Stage Struck is a nice film, but definitely a come down from Morning Glory.
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Like Watching a Train Wreck, You Just Can't Turn Away
pfeffermuse24 August 2008
Some people are born with talent. Some can acquire it. Others can take all the lessons in the world, and still not grasp that elusive "it". And that's the problem with Susan Strasberg's performance: she clearly understands the nuances and subtleties of acting, but cannot connect that knowledge to the empathy and passion an actor must have to be believable in their role.

When at the party, Eva Lovelace recites the balcony scene from "Romeo & Juliet", and the guests become transfixed, I was never sure if they were staring in awe or horror. Strasberg pauses and reflects on her words perfectly -- at these moments, one could believe she's Juliet watching and waiting for her lover's answers. But when she recites the words -- and a recitation is all it is -- the fire, the passion of Juliet for Romeo is non-existent. She could just as easily have been telling the doorman to call her a cab.

The most interesting aspect of the film was in watching the various methods of acting being presented. Herbert Marshall (who started in silents and early talkies), Henry Fonda (who started in film in the 1930s) and Christopher Plummer (one of the new method actors) are all believable in their roles and mesh seamlessly together. Then there's Strasberg, who is incapable of presenting even a fraction of the range of any of her co-stars. (Frankly, I didn't make the connection between her and her father, and wondered who she knew to have secured the role.) The film is interesting as a curio piece, and Lumet's brilliance in portraying New York's scenery. But as a moving story about the theatre, it can't touch "All About Eve".
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One of the finest films to deal with American theatre.
Rod Evan10 October 2000
Along with "All About Eve" this is one of the finest films dealing with the American theatre. I don't understand why it is a lost film and would urge anybody who enjoys great acting to hunt this film down any way they can. It is also about time it was released on video. Susan Strasberg was clearly one of Hollywood's casualties and it's tragic that the films she made after this were perhaps determined by the mediocre reaction at the time to this film.
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Almost unwatchable
Ripshin11 August 2004
Strasberg gives what is perhaps one of the worst performances by an actress in an "A" film. Her acting is jaw-droppingly terrible, and "over-the-top" is too kind of a phrase. She obviously took her father's instruction to heart - he being Lee Strasberg of the Actor's Studio. The "waiting-for-the-reviews" party during the first thirty-minutes of the film actually contains a cring-worthy rendition of the famous balcony scene from "Romeo & Juliet."

Of course, director Lumet has a tendency to allow his performers to chew the scenery. Fonda is an exception, though. He provides his usual subdued interpretation. Plummer comes across quite nicely, as well.

However, the "romantic" conclusion is totally ridiculous, as there is zero chemistry between the characters who finally end up with one another.

I forced myself to watch this film till the end, but it wasn't easy. Not surprisingly, Strasberg's career eventually settled into "B" movies, and hammy TV roles.
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I found it quite compelling
geoff-16114 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Was Susan Strasberg over the top? Absolutely.

I made the mistake of not turning the TV off while preparing for bed and Stage Struck came on. I thought I'd just watch a moment or two and hit the sack.

Well, I watched the whole thing. I couldn't turn it off.

Susan Strasberg was most certainly over the top. But, the amazing feat was that Eva was not totally and completely obnoxious. Instead, she was lovely and thoroughly likable. (Unlike Katherine Hepburn who made Eva obnoxious in Morning Glory.)

I agree about the chemistry bit - there was none between Fonda and Strasberg. On the other hand, wasn't that the way it was supposed to be? They didn't end up as a couple in the end. Fonda clearly was infatuated with Eva, but what he really loved was her talent.

There wasn't any romance in the movie - it was more about never making the romantic connection. Fonda gets his hit, Plummer is now a director to match his success as a playwright, and Strasberg is launched as a potentially great star.

The beauty of it is that, because Fonda and Strasberg, and Plummer and Strasber only stuck their toes in the romantic waters, the movie ends with us knowing that the three of them will be great friends and that the truly obnoxious Rita Vernon as delightfully played by Joan Greenwood has been edged out by the much more appealing Eva.

There was great chemistry between Herbert Marshall and Susan Strasberg. That was the real romance in the film - they regarded each other with such warmth. Herbert Marshall went from "Who the Hell is this naive creature" to caring deeply for her.
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RanchoTuVu31 March 2005
Susan Strasberg plays Eva Lovelace, an aspiring Broadway actress possessed by some theatric god that directs her to precisely pronounce and deliver each and every word with impeccable timing. She comes to New York by way of Vermont where she performed in numerous summer stock productions and her persistence and personality capture the attention of playwright Joe Sheridan (Peter Cushing) and actor Robert Marley Hedges (Herbert Marshall). Producer Lewis Easton (Henry Fonda) tells her to study the Actor's Studio (would that be Lee Strasberg's school of method acting?) but she doesn't want to dilute her gift by having it altered in an acting school. Strasberg's performance makes and at times almost breaks this picture. It manages to annoy and captivate, often simultaneously. When she delivers Juliet's lines on the stairway of Easton's swank townhome after drinking four or five glasses of Champaigne in front of a party of theater luminaries, it knocks you out. It is as if Eva Lovelace is playing Susan Strasberg. In any event, she (Strasberg) has an unusual beauty and sincerity that come shining through in spite of the theatrics.
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If you love the Theatah
dannywolo14 January 2005
I happened upon this movie and found it so moving. Mostly it was the performances but a large part of the reason I loved it was the pictures obvious love for the Theatre. A love I share. In the film, Fonda is amazing. Complicated and 3D, subtle and larger than life. Ms Strassberg, though vocally somewhat stiff and mannered is so alive and vibrant, young and beautiful. I thought her Juliet speech was again vocally stiff, but inside of that was an amazing, young, excited, perfect Juliet. Every word was felt and communicated in an immediate sincere way that is hardly ever achieved in the role. The detail of THEATRE in NEW YORK in the 50's is wonderful. The Stageheands reading the paper as they flip switches, the STAGE DOOR, curtain calls, the adrenaline of opening night. I could go on and on, but as one who loves backstage type melodrama this one is a feast.
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Katherine Hepburn vs Susan Strasberg - Don't Miss Both Performances!
803340801 February 2005
I was lucky enough to find this movie on TCM. There isn't any other way to see it since there are no DVD or VHS copies made as far as I can find. I found it amazing. Kaherine Hepburn has pretty much owned this story with her 1933 Acadamy Award winning performance of "Morning Glory" but I have to say (and I yield to no one in my admiration for the late Ms Hepburn) Susan Strasberg's performance was better. First allowance has to be made for changes in acting styles between 1933 and 1958 but looking at both versions now Katherine was good but Susan's performance was better and more compelling. As a matter of casting, Katherine isn't as good at portraying the vulnerable ingenue perhaps because her personality was so sharp even in her 20's. Anyway, keep an open mind, see both versions and decide for yourself ! You will enjoy them.
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Awesome, charming, captivating, and timeless.
J B Thackery5 October 2007
I had to keep reminding myself that this film was made in 1958, not in our day. It is "timelessly modern." It's not just another fantasy film about the backstage theater world. The acting is so real and emotions so true, you get caught up in every scene as if you are part of the film. Add the excellent photography and cinematography which seem ahead of their time, and you think you are watching a movie made half a century later.

This is not all dreamy, and it is not all hardline: It is a perfect blend of both the aspirations of the heart, and the realities people must overcome to achieve them.

The story itself has true personal appeal, as it combines dreams of stardom with down-to-earth human feeling. The directing and acting prove that a halfway decent script can be brought to life, exuding an appeal uncommon in any film of any era.

Moreover, this is a fine example of how acting and directing can make a movie entertaining MINUS sleeze and vularity.
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Broadway Baby
writers_reign6 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
As one of those people who love theatre as much as I do cinema I'm always ready to enjoy a film ABOUT the theatre and although it's difficult if not impossible to eclipse The Country Girl and All About Eve, there have, over the years, been a few half-decent stabs. Stage Struck, alas, is not one of them. Susan Strasberg was outstanding in Picnic but was never able to replicate the magic with which she invested her performance as Kim Novak's kid sister in any subsequent film role and her Eva Lovelace in Stage Struck verges on the embarrassing. There's one 'in' joke which would, in 1958, have been reasonably topical when Eva dismisses the Actor's Studio out of hand, whilst, of course, Strasberge the actress, is also the daughter of Lee Strasberg, a man associated indelibly with the Actor's Studio. Other people here have remarked on the lack of chemistry on screen but at least one noted the obvious warmth between Strasberg and Herbert Marshall and had he played the Fonda role the film might have stood a chance. Certainly worth a look especially if you've seen the original, Morning Glory, with Katherine Hepburn in the Strasberg role.
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A very good movie.
tomassacci3 April 2001
I watched this movie about 15 years ago and I loved it. I have been trying to purchase a copy of it ever since. If any one reads this message and has a copy they would like to sell or can tell me where I can get this movie please help. I would be extremely grateful. Thank You,
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Christopher Plummer's First Film
callie-054243 April 2018
I know this is a remake of Morning Glory with Katherine Hepburn however Henry Fonda is here as well as Susan Stasberg. Plummer has always been one of the greatest chacter Actors we've ever had. He was Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and later Agatha Christie's 'Ordeal By Innonce' which includes Sarah Miles and then we see him playing John Barrymore and a Nazi who has forgotten he ever was one. Plummer is good at the Classics as well but some of his earlier works are not available. He has won one Academy Award but has been nominated several times. He gives life to animated characters in 'Up', 9 and others.

Stage Struck is a great film, see if you can find it.
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Lee's kid daughter - grate acting?
trimmerb123421 April 2016
Susan Strasburg was method acting guru Lee Strasburg's daughter.The film is peppered with acting luminaries such as Henry Fonda, Christopher Plummer and Herbert Marshall. I was however strongly reminded of a film on a rather similar theme "All about Eve" where again an ambitious young novice actress seeks to advance her career - at the expense of ageing actress played by Bette Davis. The screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz has become immortal as in "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night! ".

Not one line of Stage Struck is memorable. My attention was only briefly attracted by something surely unintended around 30 minutes in. Strasburg, Fonda and Herbert Marshal perform part of a Shakespeare play. Henry Fonda was OK but Susan Strasburg quacked and gave no indication of promise even. But Herbert Marshall spoke his lines wonderfully. Marshal, I suddenly realised had wasted and misdirected his talents, not least here.

Interesting Herbert Marshall trivia: During the First World War, Marshall served ... with fellow actors Basil Rathbone, Ronald Colman, Cedric Hardwicke and Claude Rains. (Wikipedia) Coincidentally perhaps the greatest and most distinctive vocal talents in cinema history.
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Romantic Comedy with a Strong Documentary Feel
l_rawjalaurence12 October 2014
As several reviewers have remarked, the chief attraction of Sidney Lumet's film lies in its evocation of New York in the mid-Fifties. From its opening tracking shots of Broadway, showing the popular shows of the time (including SEPARATE TABLES), to the regular establishing shots of the cars and taxicabs moving endlessly up and down, the film makes us aware of the fact that the action will take place in a confined location, wherein everyone knows everyone else.

In this kind of environment, egos are both fragile yet inflated. Joan Greenwood's Rita Vernon offers a prime example - someone who believes in her abilities as an "ACTOR," yet perpetually haunted by the belief that she could somehow lose her stardom. Hence her relentless pursuit of producer Lewis Easton (Henry Fonda). The sequence where they negotiate her future contract, while locked in a passionate embrace, is masterly, revealing how personal and professional issues are inseparable.

As the would-be star "Eva Lovelace" (the falseness of the name reveals how artificial Broadway life actually is), Susan Strasberg represents a breath of fresh air. While certainly not possessed of the acting- skills of her illustrious costars, she possesses a sincerity of purpose that proves extremely attractive. Her rendition of the balcony-scene from ROMEO AND JULIET at Easton's first night party is strangely haunting. Director Sidney Lumet understands this, which helps to explain why he shoots the sequence in a series of close-ups, focusing our attention on Strasberg's open countenance as she looks straight into Easton's face.

The story is a familiar one, as Lovelace takes over from Vernon in the lead role of a new play written by Joe Sheridan (Christopher Plummer) and shoots to stardom after the first night. Lumet wisely chooses not to focus on the performance itself, but rather on the backstage reactions: Strasberg's wide-eyed expression of disbelief at her achievement is contrasted with the superficial reactions of miscellaneous theatrical hangers-on, who come to congratulate her with the usual platitudes ("Dahling, you were marvelous, always though you'd make it"). The film's ending is perhaps too drawn-out, consisting of an extended dialog between Lovelace and Easton, but what emerges most tangibly is the fact that Lovelace has no real need to go and celebrate at Sardi's (as directed by theatrical custom). She is happy just to stand on the stage, looking out at the auditorium and reflect on what happened during the last two hours or so. Although very much implicated in the world of Broadway falseness, Easton comes to understand her state of mind and blows her a kiss ("just from me"). Sometimes sincerity can triumph over artifice.

STAGE STRUCK is full of intertexts: Eva's name is a direct sonic reference to Joseph L. Mankiewicz's ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), another classic exposé of Broadway hypocrisies. At one point elderly actor Robert Hedges (Herbert Marshall) advises Lovelace to complete her education at the Actors' Studio, which just happened to be run by Strasberg's real-life father Lee Strasberg.

The basic plot of STAGE STRUCK might be familiar - as other reviewers have remarked, it is a remake of MORNING GLORY (1933) - but there are plenty of ingredients within the ninety-minute running-time to interest all types of viewer.
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