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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Wonderland Burlesque's Let's All Go To The Movies: All The World Is A Stage - Part 2 of 12

Wonderland Burlesque's
Let's All Go To The Movies:
All The World Is A Stage
Part 2 of 12

This is the second of a twelve-part series of posts dealing with show business, be it the stage or soundstage.

Yes, show people, their tawdry little lives - in the theatre or movie studio - in all their glory, projected up there on the big screen, bigger than life; and they wouldn't have it any other way. For you see, they live for the stuff; the imitation glamor, the insufferable players, the exhausting rehearsals, and the oh-so important reviews - but above all else - they do it for the applause.

So hit the lights, for today, all the world is, indeed, a stage!

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Back Stage

Roscoe and Buster are working at a vaudeville house. When the crew attacks the strongman for bullying his assistant, the man goes on strike so the crew must put on a show. When the strongman starts shooting from the balcony, Buster rigs a swing, picks him up, and takes him to the stage where the villain is subdued.

This American two-reel silent comedy was directed by and stars Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and features Molly Malone, Buster Keaton and Al St. John.

Molly Malone and Fatty Arbuckle

Includes a scene with Buster Keaton doing butterflies and no-handed cartwheels in drag.

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Hit Of The Show

Night life on the street that never sleeps... thrilling glances between the closed curtains of Stageland; an untold story of the world of make-believe.

This all-sound, part-talkie comedy was directed by Ralph Ince and stars Joe E. Brown, Gertrude Olmstead and William Bailey. In addition to sequences with audible dialogue, the film features a synchronized musical score and sound effects along with English intertitles. The soundtrack was recorded using the RCA Photophone sound-on-film system.

Gertrude Olmstead

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Stage Mother

A vaudeville star has to leave her daughter with her dead husband's stuffy Boston parents while she makes a living. But when the daughter shows some talent, the mother become a stage mother and pushes her daughter into becoming a Broadway star. The mother is a monster with a heart of gold, and after breaking up the daughter's love affair, finally sees the error of her ways.

Based on the 1933 novel of the same name by Bradford Ropes, this American pre-Code drama was directed by Charles Brabin and stars Alice Brady, Franchot Tone, and Maureen O'Sullivan. The screenplay was written by John Meehan and Bradford Ropes.

Larry Fine's only solo screen appearance without his partners in The Three Stooges - though costume and makeup test photos show that Moe Howard and Curly Howard were also to appear, probably in a musical dance sequence.

Broadway star Alice Brady appeared in more than 50 silent films and didn't make her talkie debut until 1933.

Maureen O'Sullivan's singing voice is rather obviously dubbed. She went on to become a star in her own right, on both stage and screen. O'Sullivan retired from the screen for a time to take care of her ailing husband and devote her time to her children. The mother of Mia Farrow. she also earned the distinction of being fired by Woody Allen while working on the film September, a film which also starred Allen's then life partner, Mia Farrow.

Film historian Richard Barrios identified Stage Mother as an example of the presentation of 'coded' homosexual imagery in early film. The Motion Picture Production Code banned overt portrayals of homosexuality, but the code was laxly enforced until July 1, 1934, when Joseph Breen took over the agency. The character of Mr. Sterling, Shirley's dance instructor, typifies the motion picture homosexual; posing with hands on hips, Sterling lisps his way through his scene with Kitty and Shirley and even exchanges dialogue with Kitty implying that she will fix him up with other men in the theatre.

Margaret O'Sullivan and Alice Brady

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Stage Door

Terry Randall, a rich society beauty, has decided to see if she can break into the Broadway theatre scene without her family connections. She goes to live in a theatrical boarding house and finds her life entwined with those of the other boarders and the ever-present disappointment which theatrical hopefuls live with. Her smart-mouth roommate, Jean, is approached by a powerful producer for more than just a role. Then Terry's father decides to give her career a big push by backing a production for her to star in, but in which she's sure to fail. However, in the end, her father's interference ends up hurting more than just his daughter.

Produced and distributed by RKO Pictures and adapted from the play of the same name, this American drama was directed by Gregory La Cava and stars Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick, Constance Collier, Andrea Leeds, Samuel S. Hinds and Lucille Ball, with Eve Arden and Ann Miller, playing minor roles.

The film was adapted by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller from the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, but the play's storyline was almost completely changed for the movie, so much so in fact that Kaufman joked the film should be called Screen Door.

Director Gregory La Cava was particularly gifted working with actresses. Two weeks prior to filming, he had his cast improvise on a boarding house set as if they were actually rooming together. He had a script girl take down all their interactions and most of the dialog heard in the boarding house in the film is nothing but extemporaneous ad-libs by the actresses.

When Katharine Hepburn delivered her climactic stage speech, Gregory La Cava reduced it to a mere ten lines and filmed it on a closed set. He later brought in the actors and the extras in the audience and had them react to the filmed speech. Many of them broke down in tears.

The famous line delivered by Katharine Hepburn, "The calla lilies are in bloom again..." - is actually dialog taken from the play The Lake, which Hepburn infamously played on Broadway and of which Dorothy Parker famously said that Hepburn "ran the gamut of emotions - from A to B."

Hepburn's box office power had been declining, and she was initially  given a smaller part than she was accustomed to and was to receive second billing after Ginger Rogers. Hepburn protested to RKO producer Pandro S. Berman, who told Hepburn "she was lucky to have the seventh role in a star picture". Hepburn persisted and was given more scenes as filming progressed. She and Ginger Rogers eventually shared side-by-side top billing.

Hepburn's four movies prior to Stage Door had been commercial failures. However, as a result of the positive response to her performance in this film, RKO immediately cast her opposite Cary Grant in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby (1938).

Incredibly, Ann Miller was only 14 years-old when she appeared in this film. She'd lied about her age and procured a fake birth certificate, but the precocious Miller was so tall and beautiful at age 14 that she pulled it off. That said, it is quite impressive to see her holding her own when dancing opposite Ginger Rogers, who by then was an international star and the dance partner of Fred Astaire.

Rogers is actually credited for Miller's big career break. As a friend of Roger's recalled, "it all started with Ginger Rogers. When she (Miller) went in for that audition, director Greg La Cava thought she was great but too tall to dance with Ginger Rogers. And right when that comment was made, Ginger was walking in Greg's office. After hearing this, Ginger said, "Well, I like how she looks. Can you stand a minute, string bean?" Ann Miller stood up and said, "Ms. Rogers, if I wore flat shoes with a shorter hat and you wore heels, don't you think it would balance out?" Ginger said, "I think you're right! You got the job string bean." Greg La Cava was not going to argue with Ginger Rogers, so he simply said, "There we go girls." Miller and Rogers became life-long friends and were often seen together through the years.

This film features Andrea Leeds's only Oscar-nominated performance.

At a dinner theater in Dallas in the late 1980s, Ginger Rogers recounted how she was deeply disappointed that her life-long friend Margaret Sullivan who played Terry Randall on Broadway, was slated for the film version but became pregnant and had to bow out. "Mag was everybody's dream girl for that part. Instead we got Hepburn who did a good job."

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The Hard Way

Ambitious Helen Chernin pushes her talented younger sister Katherine into marriage with broken down song-and-dance man Albert Runkel so that the two women can leave the dirty steel town where they live. Runkel's partner Paul Collins, however, sees through Helen's plan. Helen continues driving her sister's career and eventually Katherine becomes a star on Broadway, while Runkel and Collins' act flounders. Success soon goes to Katherine's head and she becomes a fast-living party girl. Time passes and Helen and Katherine run into Paul, now a successful band leader. He and Katherine soon fall in love. The two sisters eventually have a showdown on the opening night of Katherine's latest show - when Katherine discovers that Helen is also in love with Paul!

Based on a story by Irwin Shaw, this Warner Bros. musical drama was directed by Vincent Sherman and stars Ida Lupino, Dennis Morgan, and Joan Leslie.

Bette Davis was originally the first choice for the role of Helen Chernin but turned it down. Upon seeing the finished product, however, she mused, "How did I let that one get away?" Ginger Rogers as also offered the role of Helen, but declined. Instead, Ida Lupino was cast. Irwin Shaw wanted Howard Hawks or William Wyler to direct the film, but because they were busy with other projects, producer Jerry Wald hired Vincent Sherman.

The role of Ida Lupino's screen sister Katie was originally cast with Priscilla Lane before being given to Lupino's High Sierra (1940) co-star Joan Leslie.

The film's glamourous first and last scenes were added at Jack L. Warner's insistence, who also demanded that Lupino appear more glamorous in the film’s opening.

This film is based on a story by Irwin Shaw which was reportedly based on Ginger Rogers' relationship with her first husband Jack Pepper (whom she married in 1928 at age 17) and her notorious stage mother Lela.

Ida Lupino was awarded a New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.

Ida Luponi, Dennis Morgan, and Joan Leslie

Ida Luponi

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And that's all for now.

Tune in next week.

Same place, same channel.

The Hard Way - Movie Trailer


whkattk said...

Gosh, I love the backstory details you provide with these posts.

Sixpence Notthewiser said...

I absolutely forgot that Maureen O'Sullivan was Mia's mom. Her grandson is one of the most beautiful men I've seen. And a fab journalist to boot.

Ida Lupino? Goddess.

And Fatty? Really????


Xersex said...

Catherine Hepburn: what a great actress & person!