When Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn), an aspiring actress from a wealthy Midwestern family, arrives at the Footlights Club, a modest New York boardinghouse, she is greeted by a bevy of world-weary actresses and chorus girls. Terry's haughty manner and highbrow tastes immediately alienate her from her fellow "troopers," who pride themselves on their sharp wit and down-to-earth style. Particularly leery of Terry is her roommate, Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), a wisecracking dancer who resents Terry's lavish wardrobe and judgmental attitudes.

Because of her dubious liaison with theatrical producer Anthony "Tony" Powell (Adolphe Menjou), a notorious womanizer, Jean also dislikes another housemate, the sophisticated Linda Shaw (Gail Patrick). Loved by all of the women, however, is Kay Hamilton (Andrea Leeds), a high-strung but dedicated actress who, although receiving rave notices for a play that she had starred in the previous year, has since been unable to find work.

In spite of the pleas of her father, Henry Sims (Samuel S. Hinds), to return home, Terry vows to remain in New York and make her way as an actress. Meanwhile, Jean is spotted during a dance rehearsal by Powell, who arranges an audition for her and her partner Annie (Ann Miller) at a nightclub.

Later, Kay faints in Powell's theatrical offices after she learns that the producer has refused to see her. Furious, Terry bursts into Powell's office and berates him for his callous indifference. Unmoved, Powell dismisses Terry but, when he is approached later by a man representing a potential backer who has made casting Terry a part of his offer, he agrees to star her in his next play, Enchanted April.

Powell then invites Jean to dine with him at his penthouse and, to spite Linda, Jean accepts. As predicted by Linda, Powell shows Jean photographs of his young son and estranged wife, plies her with champagne and delivers a "poor little me" routine to seduce her. When Jean slips into teary, drunken babbling, however, Powell sends her home, where Terry puts her to bed with sisterly care.

Later, Powell invites Terry to his penthouse and tells her that he wants her to star in Enchanted April. During their meeting, Jean storms the apartment and indicts Terry, who acts coy in order to save her roommate from Powell's unscrupulousness. Although suspicious of Powell, whose pose as a married man she quickly exposes, Terry accepts the part, unaware of the backer's request.

Although Kay is stunned when she learns that Terry has been cast in the role she has longed to play, she bravely blesses her housemate's debut. In spite of Terry's insipid acting during rehearsals, Powell keeps her in the show and braces himself for a flop. On opening night, Kay advises Terry on how to play the difficult opening scene; then, after Terry has left for the theater, Kay jumps to her death.

At the theater, Jean accuses Terry of pushing Kay to suicide, and Terry, dazed with guilt, struggles to make her entrance. At last finding inspiration from Kay's tragic sacrifice, Terry gives a moving performance that touches even Jean. For her curtain call, Terry pays homage to Kay and earns the forgiveness of Jean, as well as the approval of her father, who reveals himself as the show's backer. To Powell's disgust, Terry abandons the opening night festivities and, with Jean, says "goodbye" to Kay.

Oscar
4 Nominations
0 Awards

Golden Globes
0 Nomination
0 Awards
“Stage Door” is notable for its predominantly female cast, pre-dating George Cukor's “The Women” by two years. While Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers were already stars, the supporting cast including rising actresses Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, and Eve Arden. They traded sharp but good-natured insults, but their tough exterior was just a front for facing their career setbacks. The only actress whose character is a snob and a second-choice mistress was Gail Patrick. Despite being surrounded by much better known actresses, it was a tear jerking Andrea Leeds who landed the Best Supporting Actress nomination who, unlike her character in the movie, would later marry a rich man and retire from the screen.

Adapted from the Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman stage hit, the sparkling dialogue comes at the audience rapid-fire as each stellar performer steps forward. Kaufman was among the most accomplished playwrights of his era, twice winning the Pulitzer Prize. But the dialogue was largely replaced for the script. Allegedly, much of the backstage chatter of the real-life actresses was written into the script, per orders of director Gregory La Cava.

Katharine Hepburn, who receives top billing, has the largest part of the ensemble cast. She is a headstrong, well-educated, star-struck amateur, who is rich as well. Hepburn's monotone reading of her play entrance line, "The calla lilies are in bloom again", was fodder for comics for the rest of her career.

The ladies dominate the film. The few men that are present are generally stereotyped. Adolphe Menjou plays a smug Broadway producer who uses his position to seduce much younger women. Jack Carson, in one of his earliest films, plays a good-natured but rather slow-witted lumberjack. Samuel S. Hinds is a humorless wheat magnate who predictably doesn't want his daughter in show business. The most rewarding male supporting role is given to Franklin Pangborn, who is a riot as Menjou's submissive butler.

“Stage Door” received four Academy Award nominations, including all the major categories of Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Supporting Actress.