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Joan Bennett, who spurned the stage for the screen, now comes back from the screen to the stage to tell about a girl who refused to spurn the stage for the screen. If this minor irony doesn't obtrude itself upon your attention, you will find George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's "Stage Door" a rather absorbing bit of sentimental comedy. With Mr. Kaufman monopolizing the Boylston-Tremont region, go see "You Can't Take It With You" first, then "Stage Door", and finally "I'd Rather Be Right"; or, proceed in the reverse order if you don't intend to see all three or like to save your icing for last.
"Stage Door is based on the fairly plausible assumption that the legitimate stage is worth starving for, but that its illegitimate child should be called by the shorter name for such offspring, Miss Bennett as Terry Randall struggles through three acts and six scenes defending that creed. She sees her beau, an ill-mannered thunder-and-lightning radical, get enmeshed in the celluloid toils, and tells him where to go when he tries to sweep her off to his California paradise. She sees her best friend in the Footlight Club, the actress's refuge, escape from failure by way of poison. She sees a beautiful nitwit accept a film contract which she herself turns down, get acclaimed by the moviegoing public, and return to do a play on Broadway, sponsored by her Philistine boss. But David Kingsley a sensitive fellow who regrets having sold his soul to the latter potentate, persuades the man to discard his vapid beauty and give Terry Randall (Miss Bennett) an audition. They come around at midnight, drag Terry out of bad, and Mr. Gretzl (the producer), blows cigar smoke in her face. The unhappy young woman breaks down in a fit of coughing and chagrin, but all is saved when her sensitive friend throws off his bondage, buys the play, and takes her over professionally and personally.
Miss Bennett is charming and intelligent in her representation of the strong-willed heroine. Sometimes one suspects her of being just a little uneasy, but then the explanation always suggests itself that the embarrassment belongs to the character, and not to the actress. Richard Kendrick makes an excellent Keith Burgess, the Communist who thought better of it when he made some money, and Douglas Gilmore is a dignified victim of Hollywood's rapacity. The cast, however, is a huge one, and no small part of the interest comes from studying the various members of the Footlight Club. Having only two hours in which to work, Mr. Kaufman and Miss Ferber have made an amazing number of young women stand out as real persons. The secret is probably that heavy lines and strong colors are used: there is the witty cynic, the blase adventures, the man-hater, the sweet young thing from the South, the inescapable talker, the pair of mediocre pals, the dancer of irrepressible gaiety and the lonesome victim of melancholia. The summary is only partial. If Miss Bennett is not sufficient inducement, it's worth your while to go see this bevy of assorted women in search of artistic careers.
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