Friday, January 26, 2007

STAGE DOOR (RKO 1937) Warner Home Video

Stage Door (1937) treads the familiar yarn of backstage heartache with uncharacteristic panache and a killer cast. Wealthy socialite, Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn) wants desperately to break into theater, only she wants to do it on her own. So Terry decides to go slumming, secretly checking into a theatrical boarding house populated by sharp shooter, Judy Canfield (Lucille Ball), wise girl, Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), smart mouth, Eve (Eve Arden) and precocious daydreamer, Annie (Ann Miller), a couple of stage struck kids...almost.

What Terry discovers is that life upon the wicked stage might be the nearest thing to heaven, if only she could manage to get closer to the stage herself. Very quickly however, Terry learns her fate, and that of the other hopefuls, is plagued by ever-present disappointments.

A big break of sorts comes by way of Jean's new affiliation with a powerful elderly producer, Anthony Powell (Adolphe Menjou) - only he wants Jean for more than just the lead. Enter Terry's father, set to help his daughter's career but in a production in which she is almost surely to fail.

Director Gregory La Cava's astute perceptions about stage folk and their ragged existence beyond the footlights provide deeper insight and juicier vignettes than one might expect. There's an intense immediacy to the drama and a biting edge to the comedy that is uncharacteristic in comedies of this vintage.

Warner Home Video's DVD is superb. The B&W image has been mastered from reasonably clean film elements. Contrast levels are punchy. There's a hint of edge enhancement and some fine detail shimmering, but nothing that will distract. Fine details are nicely realized. Film grain is kept to a bare minimum. Age related artifacts are present throughout but minimized. The audio is mono but adequately represented. An audio only radio broadcast is the only extra included.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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