Friday, July 15, 2005

3. '>STAGE DOOR (1937). The struggling actor or most often actress who makes good is a staple of dozens of filmed stories: musicals, comedies, dramas and melodramas. This is one of the best, which seems to incorporate all possibilities, veering from screwball comedy to melodrama and ending up a fairly authentic kind of human comedy. It's singular for the appearance of star actresses who seldom worked together, so it's a treat to see Katharine Hepburn trade barbs with Ginger Rogers, while Eve Arden, Lucille Ball and Ann Miller wisecrack around them. It's also one of the better roles for Gail Patrick, who is seldom remembered now but excelled at playing cold manipulative women with just a touch of vulnerability.

Though the film tends to sag where the story does, Gregory La Cava keeps it moving briskly most of the time. (La Cava, a very busy silent movie actor who became a prodigious producer and director, had just directed his best film, the classic comedy '>My Man Godfrey---with Gail Patrick's most memorable performance. "Stage Door" was not only about the theatre, it started out as a play, by the formidable team of Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.

4.'>ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) The dark side of "Stage Door" and one of the best written movies of all time (written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz). Famous as a Bette Davis vehicle, it also features outstanding performances by George Sanders, Gary Merill, Celeste Holm and Anne Baxter. Also an early appearance by Marilyn Monroe.

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