Setting: mid-1930s New York
Terry Randall - Katharine Hepburn
Jean Maitland - Ginger Rogers
Anthony Powell - Adolphe Menjou
Linda Shaw - Gail Patrick
Kay Hamilton - Andrea Leeds
Judith - Lucille Ball
Eve - Eve Arden
Annie - Ann Miller
Premise: Humor and tragedy in a boarding house for actresses in New York as they try and survive and get discovered in the cut throat world of the theater.
My Thoughts: This was one of my absolute favorite movies for years and I've watched it so many times but it's been at least a decade since I've seen it. When I was thinking of a list of essential movies this is one of the first that came to mind but I was a bit afraid that it wouldn't live up to my expectations. I was a little nervous when I sat down to watch it a few weeks ago but as soon as the first scene of the living room at The Foot Lights Club started I was instantly in love all over again.
There is a plot involving the sweet and kind actress Kay who is struggling to get any part at all after a run in a successful production the year before. The jobs aren't coming and Kay is behind on her rent and not eating to try and save money. All her hopes are riding on a role in Anthony Powell's newest production. Three of the girls are vying for the attention (and gifts) from that same Anthony Powell and the expected conflict arises.
As well, Katharine Hepburn plays one of the roles she's best in - a rich girl with unusual interests who is bucking the expectations. She's somewhat controlled and wonderfully quick tongued. She becomes roommates with Jean Maitland, a broke dancer with a chip on her shoulder played to perfection by Ginger Rogers. Their back and forth from the moment they meet is glorious. Ginger Rogers is an actress that I don't think gets enough credit. She's mostly remembered as the dance partner of Fred Astaire but her comedic timing is perfection and she can play tragic without drifting into melodramatic.
My favorite parts are the ensemble cast moments - Lucille Ball with her lumberjacks, Eve Arden with Henry the cat draped over her shoulders and the rest of the girls as they tease and play off each other. This is a comedy with a dose of tragedy, reality with a dose of dream, a fun movie that made me cry a time or two.
What Makes This Movie Essential: The cast is amazing. While Eve Arden, Ann Miller, and Lucille Ball have relatively small roles they are still given plenty of opportunity to shine. Plus, where else can you see Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn banter? It's the stuff of magic.
Read Alike: None comes to mind though if you enjoy books with a theme of friendship and very strong banter you would enjoy this movie.