Monday, April 8, 2013

18. Stage Door

1937; dir. Gregory La Cava; starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou
My views: 12

Of the 35 films that I watched at least 10 times from 2003 through 2012, Stage Door is the only one that my family still doesn't own. This means that I can't provide you with the usual picture of a DVD or VHS case propped against a stair.  It also means that all 12 times I watched it, I had to go out of my way to track it down first, which usually meant putting it on hold at the library.  I must digress for a moment and thank my county library system for being awesome because without it I would never have been introduced to a significant proportion of my favorite films.

There are several reasons that I bothered to track this movie down 12 times.  First of all, Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers are two of my all-time favorite actresses, and despite their completely different styles, they play off each other remarkably well in Stage Door.  Then there's the fabulous supporting cast, which includes Gail Patrick, Andrea Leeds, Eve Arden, young Lucille Ball, and freaking fourteen-year-old Ann Miller (what am I doing with my life?).  This spectacular cast is combined with some of the most snappy, witty dialogue ever written, and that, in a nutshell, is what I love about this film.

Actually it goes even deeper than that.  Most of the characters in the film are long-out-of-work actresses who use their witty comebacks, clever insults, and wisecracks as a defense mechanism against discouragement and despair.  And in a way it works.  I don't think it's a coincidence that the one who jokes around the least is the one who doesn't make it.  Even Katharine Hepburn's character, at first so disdainful of the way the others laugh through their lives, eventually turns into one of them.  She realizes that sometimes all we can do is laugh at ourselves, which I think was a good reminder to audiences during the Great Depression, and is no less relevant today.  No matter how serious life gets, it's important not to take everything too seriously.  I'm pretty sure that I've inadvertently adapted this as my unofficial motto for the last few years, and it works surprisingly well.  Despite all the crappy things that have happened, I always try to find something to laugh about because it's better than the alternative.

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