On the movie Stage Door, and buying stuff through my Amazon store

I bought a movie on a whim through Amazon the other day. I’d never seen it before, but, from what I could tell, it seemed like the kind of thing that I’d like. Among other things, the cast included a number of actresses that I happen to be quite fond of, including Katharine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, and Gail Patrick (the actress who had done such a wonderful job playing the conniving society brat Cornelia Bullock in my screwball comedy favorite My Man Godfrey). The movie (which came out the year after My Man Godfrey) is called Stage Door, and I liked it quite a bit more than I’d expected to. Not only was it brilliantly acted, and full of fast-taking dames dressed in incredibly cool clothes, but it dealt with issues that I, perhaps naively, thought weren’t addressed in the 30’s, like the predatory nature of older male producers when it comes to beautiful young women trying to break into the entertainment industry. I had a few issues with the plot, but, all things considered, I thought that the film did a great job of walking the line between comedy and drama, and conveying the precarious position of women in the theater, without coming across as overly moralistic.

The plot, for those of you who haven’t seen it, revolves around a boardinghouse full of struggling actresses known as the Footlights Club. Linette, who was watching it with Clementine and me, likened it to Facts of Life. I, of course, took great offense at that, but, I think, in a way, she was kind of on to something. As in the Facts of Life, each of the young women was coming from a different place, socioeconomically and culturally, and struggling against her own unique circumstances to become successful. There was the rich girl, played by Katharine Hepburn, who wanted to make it on her own. And there was the poor, struggling artist, played by Andrea Leeds, who, after receiving rave reviews one season, was completely forgotten the next. (Spoiler Alert… She ends up taking her own life.) And, then, there are all the women, like the character played by Lucille Ball, who, unable to make it in the business, find less than ideal men to cling on to and ride to safety. It may sound cliche, but I think the pieces were woven together well. The women fight one another savagely, but, beneath it all, as on the Facts of Life, there is an underlying camaraderie which is really quite sweet. (The trailer for the film can be found here.)

The reason I bring it up tonight, however, has to do with Andrea Leeds. I thought that she was great in this film, and I wanted to know more about her. I wanted to know why I hadn’t seen her before… Well, as it turns out, she retired from acting shortly after making Stage Door, marrying a business man in 1939 and settling down to raise a family and breed racehorses. (Leeds read for the role of Melanie in Gone with the Wind, however lost the role to Olivia de Havilland, which I think is interesting, as I noted to Linette, when I first saw her on the screen, that she looked like Olivia de Havilland.) Anyway, I just found it interesting that a successful actress would turn away from acting, especially after having been nominated for an Academy Award (for Stage Door), and I began wondering if perhaps the good roles were escaping her, or if she’d just tired of the industry, for all the reasons laid out in Stage Door. And, because it’s my blog, and because I’m bored with deficit talk, I thought that I’d write about it tonight. Anyway, if you should know why Leeds left the industry, please leave a note. I’d appreciate it. (I know it’s unlikely, but one of her tow sons is still alive, so I suppose it’s possible that he’s in the audience tonight.)

I should add that Stage Door has been added to my Amazon store, which you’ll find a link to at the bottom of the column to your right.

As for this store, it took me about 7 years to come around to doing it. I’d felt, at least at first, that by opening an online store, I might be keeping business from local stores. Now that most of the local stores are gone, though, I don’t think it’s as much of an issue. But, if you can get something locally, I’d encourage you to do it. If you’re buying mystery novels, for instance, I’d encourage you to visit Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor. And, if you’re looking for used books, I’d suggest going to Cross Street Books in Ypsi. As for videos, though, the only place I can think of with an even a remote claim to being “local” is Borders, as their ever-shrinking headquarters is, at least for the time being, still in Ann Arbor. Anyway, I decided to stop worrying about it, and dip my big toe into the waters of the 21st century.

Here’s how the store works. If you buy stuff through my Amazon link, whether I recommended it or not, I get a percentage of the sale. It’s a small percentage, but my hope is that it adds up to be something worth worth checking on every few weeks. And it doesn’t cost you anything extra. So, if you’re going to buy something through Amazon anyway, just go to the site though my link and I’ll make something like $.04 on every dollar you spend. And, don’t worry, there’s no way for me to find out what you purchased, no matter how perverter or bizarre it might be. I just see the data in aggregate.

As for the money, I promise that I’ll put it to good use. Primarily it will go for the upkeep of the site. A good portion of it will go toward the hosting of the site, which, given the traffic that we’ve been getting these last few years, has been rising steadily. It will also allow me to do some things, like pay people a nominal amount for their work on occasion. I’d like, for instance, to give some money to Andre, the reader who stepped forward to volunteer his time to help with the site redesign a few weeks ago. I’d also like to be able to offer a few bucks to friends who write features for the site. It wouldn’t be anything too outrageous, but I’m thinking that it would be good to at least be able to give Murph, for instance, money for a beer or two when he comes though with a piece on the current state of rail funding in the state. I’d also like to have more contests, like the one we’ve got going on now for new header designs. (People, it would seem, don’t like the unflattering Mark image presently at the top of the page.) So, check out my store and buy some of my favorite books and movies, and help out the site in the process. Or, as I said, you can ignore my selections altogether. The important thing is that you consume blindly, for the good of the site.

While we’re on the subject, I’d also be curious to know what you make of my selections. Are there things that I’m ignoring? Should I, for instance, have a section specifically for the movies filmed in Ypsi, or, better yet, a section for vegan cook books? I don’t know what people want. I just started throwing all the stuff that I liked into catagories, and I’m sure I could do a better job of it. So, send me your suggestions.

But, yeah, check out Stage Door, and, if you like it, check out Dinner at Eight, which is another movie that seems to kind of exist out of time. I’ll leave the discussion of that film, though, for another day.

Oh, and one last question about State Door…. At some point late in the movie, after it’s been established that the women living in the boarding house are just getting by on lamb stew, there’s a scene where one of the women tries to sweet talk a man who works at the local butcher shop to “accidentally” allow a piece of chicken to fall into their next order of lamb. This might seem trivial to most of you, but I wasn’t aware that there was ever a time in this country when chicken was more expensive than lamb, and I’d very much like to hear more about the relative price of meat during the era between the Great Depression and WWII. So, if you’re a 100 year old butcher, please leave a comment.

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  1. Edward
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    You can still buy bongs, thongs and weed locally.

  2. Eel
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Looks like Borders may be liquidated. Good work, Mark.

  3. Andre
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Not sure about lamb, but outside of rural communities, chicken was more expensive and harder to come by than other meats until factory farming really took off in the 1950s. You can still get “city chicken” at many fine Hamtramck eateries: a depression-era recipe that consists of chunks of mystery meat (veal, pork, etc), skewered, formed into the shape of a drumstick, breaded and fried.

    Lamb’s not on this chart either, but it shows how low chicken consumption was for the first half of the century:

  4. Mr.X
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I just always thought that chicken was the least expensive meat there was. I thought that was the whole idea behind the promise of “a chicken in every pot”. I thought that it represented some level of minimum subsistence, without suffering the indignity of eating rat. Chickens, after all, live on bugs, frogs and mice, don’t they? I’ve got to think that they’re less expensive to raise than lamb. I love how much I learn on this site.

  5. Gregory
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Dinner at 8:00 is great. It’s got both Barrymore brothers!

  6. Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    I like that you ask me for rail updates, and then, when I’m too slow for your tastes, resort to implying in public that it’s because I’m holding out to be plied with free alcohol.

    I actually have somethign worth giving you now, so it’ll be en route soon.

    (At least, as soon as your amazon beer fund fills up. How’s that going?)

  7. Mr. X
    Posted July 15, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m looking forward to your update, Richard “I’ll Hold Out for the Free Beer” Murphy.

  8. Eel
    Posted July 18, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Well, you did it, Maynard.

    “Borders says it’s liquidating, closing 399 stores”

  9. Posted July 18, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    It’s fucking sad news for a lot of local people. I wish them well.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted July 19, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    A little Stage Door trivia:

    Katharine Hepburn was in discussions to star in the original Broadway stage production of “Stage Door”, but Broadway producer Leland Hayward, reportedly jealous of her deepening friendship with noted film director John Ford, cast his then-girlfriend Margaret Sullavan in the leading role. Hayward and Sullavan married one month after the stage play opened. (Sullavan had previously been married to both Henry Fonda and director William Wyler.) Margaret Sullavan was considered for the film version but became pregnant with their first child, and the part went to Katharine Hepburn.

    Sullavan had three children with Leland Hayward. It was her oldest daughter Brooke Hayward who penned “Haywire,” one of the best memoirs ever written about Hollywood. Sullavan tried to make family life work but her marriage to Hayward was not working out, she suffered from serious depression, and her children Bridget and Bill had their own mental problems (culminating in Bridget’s suicide at the age of 21). On January 1, 1960, the 48-year-old Sullavan was found dead in a Connecticut hotel room. The authorities believed she had taken a deliberate overdose of barbiturates but some people, including Kendall, don’t believe the actress intended to commit suicide. In any event, she had been quite miserable. Sullavan was appearing in a new play headed for Broadway. In an interview published just before her death, she said, “The theater is a cruel place, a horrible place. Oh, you don’t know how difficult it is to make myself come back to it. It is hell.”


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