Stage Door

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Katharine Hepburn as Terry Randall and Ginger Rogers as Jean Maitland.

Stage Door is a 1937 film about a boardinghouse full of aspiring actresses and their ambitions, dreams and disappointments.

Directed by Gregory La Cava. Written by Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller, based on the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.
The gaiety...glamour...foolishness and fun of showbusiness...played on the Great White Way  (taglines)

Terry Randall

  • [to Jean] You may as well go to perdition in ermine. You're sure to come back in rags.
  • The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower, suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died...Have you gathered here to mourn, or are you here to bring me comfort?... [She touches the ring on her finger given to her by Kaye] I've learned something about love that I never knew before. That I never knew before. You speak of love when it's too late. Help should come to people when they need it. Why are we always so helpful to each other when it's no longer any use?...This is my home. This is where I belong. Love was in this house once, and for me it will always be here, nowhere else...One should always listen closely when people say goodbye because sometimes they're, they're really saying farewell.
  • I suppose that I should thank you on behalf of the company - and I know that I'm grateful to you for your applause. But I must tell you that I don't deserve it. I'm not responsible for what happened on this stage tonight. The person you should be applauding died a few hours ago. A young and brilliant actress who could no longer find a spot in the theater, and it was for her more than for anyone else that I was able to go on. And I hope that wherever she is, she knows and understands and forgives.


Terry: I want a room with a private bath.
[the girls laugh]
Terry: Is there anything strange in that request?
Mrs. Orcutt: Oh you mustn't mind the girls. They're just full of fun. We're like one great big family. I may not be able to give you just what you want, but I can put you in a room with a very charming girl, temporarily, that is, until we get a vacancy.

Jean: [after watching Terry's trunks being delivered] When does your baggage get here?
Terry: I'm expecting the bulk of it in the morning.
Jean: We could leave the trunks here and sleep in the hall. There's no use crowding the trunks.
Terry: I don't know what we're going to do when the wolfhounds arrive. I hope you don't mind animals.
Jean: Oh, not at all. I've roomed with a great many of them before.
Terry: Yes, I can see that.
Jean: [after smelling Terry's ermine wrap] Fresh kill?
Terry: Yes, I trapped them myself.
Jean: Do you mind if I ask a personal question?
Terry: Another one?
Jean: Are these trunks full of bodies?
Terry: [pointing to two of the trunks] Just those, but I don't intend to unpack them.
Jean: Well, I was just thinking if the room got too crowded, we could live in the trunks.
Terry: Yes, that's a good idea. You don't mind helping me unpack. Oh, I beg your pardon, you're not the maid, are you? [Terry drapes unpacked articles of clothing over Jean's arm]
Jean: Oh, that's quite all right. What a lovely dress! Whipped up at home by loving hands.
Terry: Every stitch.
Jean: Do you cook too?
Terry: Nothing fancy. Just plain home-cooking.
Jean: I'll bet you could boil a terrific pan of water.
Terry: I see that in addition to your other charms, you have that insolence generated by an inferior upbringing.
Jean: Hmm. Fancy clothes, fancy language and everything.
Terry: Unfortunately, I learned to speak English correctly.
Jean: That won't be of much use to you here - we all speak pig Latin.
Terry: And I use the right knife and fork. I hope you don't mind.
Jean: All you need's the knife.

Terry: The trouble with you is - you're all trying to be comics. Don't you ever take anything seriously?
Judy: If you sat around for a year trying to get a job, you won't take anything seriously either.
Terry: Well, do you have to just sit around and do nothing about it?
Judy: Maybe it's in the blood. My grandfather sat around till he was eighty.
Terry: Well my grandfather didn't and if he and a lot of others hadn't crossed the country in a covered wagon, there'd still be Indians living in Wichita.
Eve: Who do you think's living there now?
Terry: You think you're facing difficulties. What do you think of the men who crossed the Rockies?
One of the girls: Did any of them ever try to crash a manager's office?
Terry: No, but if they'd wanted to, I'm sure they could have and I bet I can too.

Terry:You sound very superior. What have you ever done in the theatre?
Eve: Everything but burst out of a pie at a Rotarian banquet.
Terry: You all talk as though the world owed you a living. Maybe if you tried to do something for the theatre, the theatre would do something for you.
Judy: Oh, what theatre!
Another girl: Is there a theatre?
Eve: I don't know. Has anybody looked up the side streets lately?
Terry: It doesn't seem to me that any of you take your work very seriously.
Judy: Well, now that you're here, we're all giving up.
Terry: At least I'm gonna have a try at it. If I can act, I want the world to know it. If I can't, I want to know it.
Eve: Even your best friends won't tell you.
Terry: It would be a terrific innovation if you could get your minds stretched a little further than the next wisecrack.
Eve: You know I tried that once, but it didn't snap back into place.

Terry: They don't seem to feel the same way about me, though.
Kaye: Oh, you mustn't mind them.
Terry: I'm beginning to feel that there's something definitely wrong with me.
Kaye: You're different, that's all.
Terry: Well now why. I eat the same food, I sleep in the same kind of bed, I've even got a crease across my back from that lumpy mattress, and I'm doing my best to pick up their slang, though I'm not so hot. How's that - 'Not so hot.'
Kaye: They'll get to understand you after a while. Maybe you'll get to understand them a little better.
Terry: Oh, I suppose so.
Kaye: They do make a lot of noise, but it's just to keep up their courage and hide their fears.
Terry: Well now, what have they got to be afraid of? Certainly they're young enough to have courage.
Kaye: Young enough to have fears too. You saw how excited Jean and Ann got just now and that wasn't a job even - just the prospect of one. You don't know what it means waiting and hoping that some manager will interview you.
Terry: Well, at least you don't have that worry. I saw you in that play last year. You know you're a good actress.
Kaye: [sighing] I'm not so sure anymore. How do you know who is an actress and who isn't? You're an actress if you're acting. But you can't just walk up and down a room and act. Without that job and those lines to say, an actress is just like any ordinary girl trying not to look as scared as she feels.

Terry: By what right do you barricade yourself behind closed doors and refuse to see people?
Powell: That happens to be none of your business.
Terry: Do you know a girl just fainted in your outer office because you broke an appointment with her?
Powell: I'm sorry, I didn't know.
Terry: As long as you keep that door closed, you'll never know anything. You're a producer. You ought to see people. Why, the greatest actress in the world might be living out there fifteen feet away from you and you'd never even give her a chance!
Powell: Are you the greatest actress in the world?
Terry: Never mind about me, I don't need you, but those other girls do. They sweat and slave and go without food and decent clothes in the hope that someday, someone like you will come out of his office and notice them.
Powell: Do you realize that if I saw all of the girls that came up here that I wouldn't have time for anything else?...Every year, about fifty thousand girls decide that they want to go on the stage for one reason or another. Well, forty-nine thousand, five hundred of them are wrong! They'd be much better off home washing dishes...They'd be so much better off at home raising families.

Powell: Now, whether you were acting in my office or no, you did show fire and emotion and that's what I need in this part.
Terry: But I'm not an emotional person.
Powell: You will be when I get through with you. I'll mold you into one.
Terry: I don't want to be molded. I believe in acting with my brain.

Terry: [about Jean] In the first place, I like her.
Powell: She won't like you very much after this.
Terry: Oh, she'll see the light in time.
Powell: You mean you'd jeopardize your own reputation. Aren't you a kind of a Girl Scout?
Terry: Just a girl who uses her brain. Anyway, I wanted to show you that I can act.
Powell: You are a faker.
Terry: Oh, we're both fakers. Isn't faking the essence of acting?
Powell: Well, it may apply to actors, but it does not apply to me.
Terry: You - you're a bigger faker than I am.
Powell: That's libel.
Terry: Not if I can prove it.

Catherine: [about Terry, after Kaye's suicide] Poor darling, you shouldn't have told her. She isn't responsible for Kaye's act.
Jean: She is responsible. It was Kaye's part. It was Kaye's life, but now it's too late. Kaye is dead...Kaye who never harmed anyone. It's all because she hasn't any heart, because she's made out of ice...I'm gonna go sit out front because Kaye asked me to be there. And every line that she reads, I'm gonna say, 'That should have been Kaye's line.' And every move you make, I'm gonna say, 'That should have been Kaye.' Kaye - who is lying in a morgue all broken and alone. And I dare ya to go on tonight.

Catherine: You can't think only of yourself. Kaye is dead -- you had nothing to do with that. But there are fifty living people to whom this show may mean as much as it did to Kaye. The ushers, the property men, the old women who clean out the theatre. Each one of them has the right to demand that you give the best performance that you can. That's the tradition of the theatre.
Terry: Oh, hang the tradition of the theatre! I'm thinking of Kaye.
Catherine: Very well then, think of Kaye. Are you going to let her down? You've got to give the performance she wanted you to give. Then perhaps, wherever she is, you may bring her peace.

Catherine: It's only after we have suffered we can make the audience feel with us.
Terry: Does someone have to die to create an actress? Is that what the theatre demands?
Catherine: It takes more than greasepaint and footlights to make an actress. It takes heartbreak as well.

Jean: Poor kid. Why she hated to leave a dump like this is a mystery.
Terry: Oh, I know how she feels. To me it would be like leaving the house where I was born.
Jean: At least she'll have a couple of kids to keep her company in her old age. And what'll we have? Some broken-down memories and an old scrapbook which nobody'll look at.
Terry: We're probably a different race of people.
Jean: Maybe. Tonight, I feel like sitting out in the moonlight having somebody hold my hand.


  • The gaiety...glamour...foolishness and fun of showbusiness...played on the Great White Way
  • Brilliant In Cast And Story


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