Q3 2017

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26 CINEMONTAGE / Q3 2017 THIS QUARTER IN FILM HISTORY by Edward Landler D irector Gregory La Cava introduced moviegoers to a host of energetic young women living together in a theatrical boarding house, struggling for survival and stardom on the New York stage, when his Stage Door premiered in San Francisco 80 years ago, on October 6, 1937. The next day, its New York opening grossed over $13,000 at the Radio City Music Hall, earning almost $300,000 there in the next three weeks. Less than a year earlier, on October 22, 1936, the original play, written by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, had opened at Broadway's Music Box Theatre with Margaret Sullavan in the lead, and was hailed by New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson as "a three-act panel of brilliant details." Running for 22 weeks, the moderate stage success was seen by RKO Radio Pictures producer Pandro S. Berman as an ideal property for the studio's great range of contracted woman players, and he bought the rights for $125,000. Teaming stars Katherine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers with a distinctive ensemble including Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller in their first major supporting roles, Berman gave the project to the improvisational firecracker La Cava, fresh from his screwball comedy hit My Man Godfrey (1936), shot at Universal. Moving from animated films into live-action shorts in 1921, La Cava started directing features in 1924. When sound came in, he made more than 20 fast- paced comedies and dramas for seven of the eight major studios. For RKO, along with five writers (three uncredited) and the cast itself, La Cava reshaped his source material The Ladies of the Footlights Club Stage Door. RKO/Photofest

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