Tag Archives: stage door

3rd Annual (or whenever) One Woman Film Festival report…

25 Oct

Probably this is not a festival you’re familiar with. It’s kind of exclusive. To wit:

redcarpetThe Wife and I invite a friend over to hang out in pyjamas all day one Sunday and watch movies. Said movies are curated in that a) it’s a trendy word and b) we put together a loose list that acts as kind of a mood-flexible flowchart (e.g., Stage Door can lead to Sunday in New York (young woman in the city) which in this case it did, but also potentially to The Great Garrick (backstage tales made in the 1930s), Baby Face (a very different sort of young woman in the city tale) or Vivacious Lady (more Ginger Rogers) which in this case it did not. Because we all liked the sound of Sunday in New York this time.

We’ve only done this twice before. Once was a double feature and was in no way organized. Next came another friend who watched three, maybe four with us in a semi-organized fashion. Then, this past Sunday, shit, as they say, got real.

A dear friend is moving to a fancy NYC job very soon. So we had her over at last for her One Woman Film Festival.

(Gender Note: there is no particular reason for excluding men from being invited. The proportion of our friends who would even want to do this are just overwhelmingly female.)

11am-2am. Fifteen hours. The slate, as it turned out:

The More the Merrier (1943);

Stage Door (1937);

Sunday in New York (1963);

The Apartment (1960);

From Hand to Mouth (1919);

His Girl Friday (1940);

and Theodora Goes Wild (1936).

I think the themes are clear. Rather than summarize these, follow the links for synopses or previous posts if they are by chance unfamiliar. I’m going to focus on the accidental connections that showed up, and then share a few group thoughts on each offering in the context of this festive day.

LITTLE THOUGHTS

The-More-The-Merrier-1943-3The More the Merrier:

Surprisingly erotic, this one, considering the presence of Charles Coburn, not usually a diapered cupid;

-This is one I should be throwing out more often in future Comedy vs. Drama arguments, because the craft on display here all around is at the highest possible level;

A really good Doff in this one by the man from the newspaper;

-This may also feature the most plausible floor show in classic film.

stage-Door)_01-788209Stage Door:

-Previous Post here;

I love the pace of this style, and yet fascinated by how Hepburn work in the middle, in-but-not-of the style;

-The fallacy of personal-tragedy-equals-Acting! bugs me as much as the equivalent buffoon-becomes-comic-genius trope – Almost Never True!;

-This is where the day’s conversations about women from pre-WWII into the mid-60s, dealing with the workforce changes of that era. We don’t jut sit around eating lentil soup and giggling, you know. We’re pretty high-toned.

sunday in nySunday in New York:

-Previous post here;

-Peter Nero is no Chico Marx, nor is he Henry Mancini – it can be tough to deal with a sex farce when it has a Charlie Brown score;

apart1The Apartment:

-This has been one of my favorite movies since I first saw it in, I suppose, high school, but it’s even more so with age and life experience. The Robinson Crusoe speech brought a few tears this time, because I have become a total sap;

-No one blinks in unwilling disbelief like Shirley Maclaine;

-I think this movie is why I take my hat off in elevators, but not why I wear a hat;

-Santa Otis Campbell IS the face of urban decadence.

from hand to mouth lloydFrom Hand to Mouth:

-Oh, for the days when bikes and cars differed little in speed;

-This was a lucky one – it’s an early Lloyd and the sort of slapsticky thing that doesn’t always work for guests, but ours enjoyed it so she’ll surely like the really good later ones;

-Next to Keaton’s Cops, one the better uses of a silent comic hero’s tendency to be a police magnet.

his girl fridHis Girl Friday;

Besides the connections below, there was much talk about the careers of John Qualen and Cliff Edwards. I beg of you: ponder them.

theodoraTheodora Goes Wild:

-Previous Irene Dunne post here;

-This one just sort of washed over us all, exhausted, film-weary, and all with some experience with small town New England – simple pleasure, though there are always social depths to dive into another time.

 

And now the fun part…

UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS

apatmentI mean, clearly, yes, young woman comes from small town (New York believes all other places are small towns) to find housing, work, and human connection. This hovers around all of the above-named movies.

But the ways in which political machinations get in the way of people’s lives (Theodora Goes Wild, The More the Merrier, His Girl Friday) was unexpected. As were the mores of boys  and girls being left alone in apartments (pretty much all of them bring this up except the Harold Lloyd). These are odd, but not shocking.

But there were many surprising little synchronicities, like:

two consecutive unexpected appearances by Grady Sutton (The More the Merrier, Stage Door);

two rakish bowler hat (Snub Pollard and Jack Lemmon);

something we called “Sleazeball Gets a Shoeshine” (Menjou in Stage Door, Macmurray in The Apartment);

Lady Buys a $12 Hat (Arthur in The More the Merrier, Russell in His Girl Friday, and Theodora bought a LOT of hats, so surely one of them);

Take Off Those Wet Clothes, Mister (Sunday in New York, His Girl Friday);

Counterfeit money (From Hand to Mouth, His Girl Friday);

Apartment 2B (The More the Merrier and Dr. & Mrs. Dreyfus in The Aparment);

people just had spare toothbrushes and bathrobes around in the 60s (The Apartment, Sunday in New York);

Albany Sucks + a failed fiancée refuses a civil drink (His Girl Friday, Sunday in New York);

Women jumping out of windows (His Girl Friday, Stage Door, and brought up in The Apartment);

and, strangely, the literal pratfall, which is to say a very specific slip-on-wet-surface-and-slide-onto-keister in at least four, though my notes are unclear. There were, naturally, Manhattans.

Stage Door (1937)

9 May

I don’t think I’m at all alone in my regard for Stage Door (which will air on TCM Tuesday, May 14 at 2:15 p.m.), but we can be honest, I assume, in admitting some of the creakiness in its melodrama. And I say this with love and with my previously admitted fondness/weakness for creaky 30s melodrama. But I’m saying it to modify your expectations. And fear less any dated stereotypes of women you may encounter than the stereotypes of stage folk. We’re a sensitive lot, but even dramatists like to take it out of actors; yet actors are always so happy to be hired that they seldom pipe up about it.

Stage Door (1937)

Anyone missing? Margaret Dumont? Joan Blondell? This is the Sgt. Pepper cover of 1930s actresses.

That said, considering its period, its cast, and its writing pedigree (George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber) it would be lovely to hear from an actively feminist contingent on this. I mean, I consider myself one, but male feminists are rightly suspect. True story: in undergrad, I took a Women in Literature class. I was one of three men in the class. I was there with what I’ll call a Pure agenda – I took most of my lit classes because the theatre degree was eating into my reading time (my double major was almost entirely the accidental result of this), so I was there because the list looked appealing. Dude #2 was there because he clearly wanted to pick up chicks and used some kind of high school Home Ec. class logic without considering potential repercussions. He didn’t last very long.

Dude #3, while I could never prove he wasn’t just Dude #2 with a different tack, had decided to be a gender apologist. No feminist, no matter her level of radicality, could possibly make more vehement statements about the Tyranny of Men than this guy was prepared to make. It was weird and kind of hilarious, and inasmuch as I mostly stayed out of such foolish discussions as he would spur on, I thought I read the room’s morbid and/or deadpan fascination with him pretty accurately.

Until One Day…

About the third book we read was Jane Eyre (which I started again yesterday for the first time since then), followed of course by Wide Sargasso Sea. I assume that’s a pretty standard attempt to blow the mind of a 90s undergrad – I had already been introduced to Angela Carter by then, so I was mostly just happy with its brevity. Anyway, we’re still in Jane Eyre and discussing the character of Edmund Rochester, and Dude #3 (he should be upgraded, since Dude #2 was gone by now, but I’ve confused the issue with all these parentheticals as it is) decides to tear righteously into Rochester for all his Rochestasticy…

…and I smelled it. I smelled the moment when the room turned on him. Because even in a group of educated women of literary bent with various places on the Men-Are-No-Damn-Good to Men-Are-No-Damn-Use spectrum, you apparently do. Not. Mess. With Rochester. I swear I saw a couple of them putting Vaseline under their eyes, pulling their hair back into scrunchies, and cracking their knuckles. The air was ripe with vengeance.

He didn’t mouth off quite as much after that.

But what was I saying? Ah, yes: Stage Door. This one falls into the “I can love what I do not condone” camp, partially because a) it is a product of its time, so seeing the handling of some of the men-over-career concerns would be no weirder than the same issues in Austen but seeing it in the century of one’s own birth is a little different, and b) this is mitigated by the Katherine Hepburn career-centric storyline, and most importantly c) Ginger Rogers in the 30s. Rrrrawrrr.

Anyway, you should watch it. It’s lovely and fun. And Ann Miller is like fourteen (seriously; she’s fourteen) and she still taps like a maniac right next to Ginger; plus Eve Arden & Lucille Ball. It’s like a chutzpah tutorial.

Sadly, I feel like I’ve gone on for long enough that I should call it quits before I launch into my thesis, “Gail Patrick: The Anti-Ralph Bellamy?” Another day, perhaps…