It takes more than greasepaint and footlights to make an actress.
Stage Door is a Dramedy from 1937 with an All-Star Cast including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller and Eve Arden.Set in a theatrical boardinghouse in New York City called the Footlights Club, it's about a group of would-be actresses struggling for their big break. Into the boardinghouse comes Terry Randall, who comes from a wealthy background, is rich, and is immediately disliked by many of the others. Gradually, however, she wins them all over.
Enforced Method Acting: The cast was made to hang out for several weeks, and most of the banter in the movie came from that.
Ensemble Cast: Though only Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers were well-known at the time, today's viewers will find the rest of the cast pretty impressive.
Funny Background Event: While Anthony Powell angrily asks Terry about the stunt she pulled of pretending to be his latest conquest, Harcourt, his butler, walks out of the room backwards. Unusual for this trope, Terry notices, and looks bemused before turning back to answer Powell.
Genre Savvy: Surprisingly, Terry. Not only does she figure out pretty quickly Anthony Powell is trying to put the moves on her, she's also the only one of his "conquests" to realize his so-called "wife and son" are fake.
I Have This Friend: A variation; Kaye has told others the story of Enchanted April (the play and role she had her heart set on, and which Terry gets instead), but Terry doesn't know or suspect until right before opening night, when Kaye starts telling her about the play's meaning.
Terry: Kaye, you know this play.
Kaye: (emotionally) It's not a play; it really happened to someone I know!
Also, the little-known Andrea Leeds played Kaye Hamilton, considered by the others to be the best actress in the bunch.
Part of the reason Judy marries at the end is she realizes that her acting career is never going to go anywhere. Judy is played by Lucille Ball.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jean and Linda both lean towards this; both are snappish to each other, and we see them snappish towards Anthony Powell; in addition, while Linda doesn't treat Harcourt very well, Jean isn't very nice towards Terry, or Judy's dates. However, they're both extremely fond of Kaye, and are both devastated when she kills herself.
Knew It All Along: Anthony Powell acts this way when it turns out Terry is a success; also when he meets Terry's father.
Mood Whiplash: The movie swings between the comedy of the actresses bickering at each other and the heartbreak of Kaye's life, especially after she kills herself.
Only Sane Woman: Terry and Miss Luther both see themselves as this, though Terry eventually gets better.
Pass the Popcorn: When Jean accuses Linda of stealing her stockings, the other women react like this:
Jean: I thought I was in love with you. I only went out with you in the first place to spit Linda. (Terry buries her head) Yes, you should be ashamed, you double-dealing, double-crossing...
Terry: Darling, I didn't know what I was doing.
Jean: You and your grandfather...preaches ideals so she can chisel when my back is turned. Well, you can take your old red fox cape. I'll never borrow another thing from you as long as I live. And don't try to borrow anything from me either. I hope you two snakes will be very happy together.
She gives another, more serious one to Terry before she goes on, and after Kaye's suicide:
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 (Terry) hasn't any heart, because she's made out of ice.
Miss Luther: I can't listen anymore, you must leave!
Jean: Oh, I'll go. 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.
Jean: By way of variety, let's complain about the food.
Sarcasm Mode: Jean's default mode, though Annie, Eve, Judy and some of the others in the Club are like that as well.
The Show Must Go On: Miss Luther doesn't use those exact words, but does invoke this trope to get Terry to go on stage after Kaye's suicide.
Snark-to-Snark Combat: Jean vs. Linda, Jean vs. Terry, Jean vs. Anthony Powell (at least until she briefly started going out with him).
Springtime for Hitler: Terry's father, Henry Sims (a wheat magnate), doesn't want Terry to act, and tries unsuccessfully to talk her out of it at a lunch. So, in order to get her to stop, he secretly backs Anthony Powell's new play, through his lawyer Carmichael, on the condition Terry star in it. Given Terry is not only inexperienced but is constantly questioning everybody, he figures the play will flop, and Terry will come back to him. However, the whole thing backfires because Terry, heartbroken when she finds out just before the curtain goes up Kaye wanted her role and killed herself because she didn't get it, gives a terrific performance that wows the audience, the critics, and the flabbergasted Powell (not to mention the director, writer and co-star she questioned), and the play is a hit, which means Terry is leaving her father for good.