Stage Struck


1h 35m 1958
Stage Struck

Brief Synopsis

A young actress makes all the wrong moves trying to break in on Broadway.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Mar 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Morning Glory by Zoë Akins (Los Angeles, 17 Oct 1939).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Synopsis

Gertrude Langerfelder, hoping to make it big as an actress in New York, renames herself Eva Lovelace and visits every theater agent and producer on Broadway. At producer Lewis Easton's office, Eva waits patiently while Lewis meets with young writer Joseph Sheridan, who is adapting Lewis' latest play. Recognizing actor Robert Harley Hedges sitting near her, Eva charms him with her naïve ambition and confidence, and he later introduces her to Joe and Lewis. Although Lewis, who sees hundreds of aspiring actors each day, tries to discourage Eva, her brash self-assurance attracts Joe, who inadvertently insults her by suggesting that she try out for chorus work. Joe is distracted by the arrival of stage star Rita Vernon, who has been offered a part in the new play but would prefer the lead role in the play Joe has just begun, pages of which Lewis has shown her in secret. Rita tells Lewis that although the role in the current play is too small, she will accept it in return for a chance at Joe's next play, and Lewis, who is Rita's lover, agrees to her demands. Meanwhile, Harley encourages Eva to try out for the Actors Studio, and is captivated by her passionate response that she has "something special" to give to the stage. After thanking him warmly, Eva shocks Harley by bursting into Lewis' office to say goodbye in person. Joe follows Eva out and invites her to audition for a small role as a peasant waitress, while inside the office Rita and Lewis negotiate the terms of her contract in between kisses. At the audition, Eva tries too hard to glamorize the role and is dismissed by the director, Constantine. Months later on the opening night of the play, Joe paces nervously outside the theater, and is pleased to see Eva there. She gladly accepts Joe's proposal to watch the play together, and delights Joe with her excitement at being backstage. Later, when he reads the rave newspaper reviews of the play, he insists that she accompany him to a party at Lewis' house. There, Eva, overwhelmed by the glamorous crowd, drinks too much champagne and begins to recite lines of Shakespeare. When she climbs the stairs to perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet , it seems certain that she will embarrass herself, but with Harley's help she soon mesmerizes the crowd with her talented rendition. Even Lewis is amazed, and later asks her to call him at the office. On her way out, Eva falls asleep in the guest bedroom, and when she wakes at four a.m. and wanders into the living room, she finds Lewis just preparing for bed. She admits that she is in love with him, prompting Lewis to kiss her. Hours later, Lewis instructs Joe to meet him in Central Park, where he tells Joe he mistakenly encouraged Eva, who is now in love with him, and wants Joe to give her money and tell her to leave town. Even though he knows that Lewis is trying to protect Eva from his playboy lifestyle, Joe, who is in love with Eva, is disappointed and angry. He rushes to Lewis' apartment to talk to Eva, but cannot bring himself to dampen her lovestruck sincerity. Days later, the play continues to be a smash hit, but at Lewis' office the mood is dour. After Lewis has his assistant lie to Eva that he has gone to Jamaica, Joe leaves town in disgust, retreating to Vermont to finish his play. When he returns to New York months later, he tracks down Eva, who is reciting poetry at the Village Voice nightclub, and they explore the city nightlife together. Just as dawn breaks over Times Square, Joe confides that although he considers Rita too old and savvy to play the naïf in his new show, Lewis may refuse to finance it without her star power. Over the next months, Joe, who is directing the play, is frustrated by Rita's constant demands to make the role more to her liking, and spends nights secretly running lines with Eva. One night, Eva spots Joe talking to Lewis in the theater, prompting her to realize that not only is she still in love with the producer, but that Joe will never risk the success of his play by casting her, an unknown. She confronts Joe, who admits that he is in love with her, and apologizes for leading her on about the role. As Eva runs out, Lewis, who has heard the whole exchange, steps out of the shadows and asks Joe if he wants to offer Eva the role. True to Eva's assumption, Joe does not dare remove Rita from the cast, and although Lewis tries to find Eva himself, the Village Voice manager tells him she has moved on. The night before the show is to open, however, Rita realizes that she has been miscast and refuses to go on, insisting the the play be postponed while her part is rewritten. At Lewis' insistence, Joe hires Eva. On opening night, Eva grows hysterically frightened, calming only after Lewis harshly instructs her to act like a star. Despite Joe and Lewis' fears, Eva performs brilliantly and receives a standing ovation. Backstage, Joe tells Eva he will always love her, but is interrupted with news that the reviews of the play, and especially of Eva, are raves. Eva cares only for Lewis' opinion, and after the Village Voice manager visits and reveals that Lewis was searching for her even before Rita quit the show, she is finally satisfied with her success. After Lewis leaves the backstage party, Harley, who is also in the play, declares that Lewis, as the producer who brings together and finances all the talent, is the biggest gambler and the most stage-struck of anyone. Joe invites Eva to Sardi's, but she asks him to go on ahead of her, and when Lewis sees Joe leave the theater alone, he returns to find Eva standing on the stage. He kisses her, but Eva coolly negotiates her new contract as she returns his kiss, then turns to leave. Regretting his missed opportunity, Lewis applauds Eva as she takes her exit.

Film Details

Genre
Romance
Drama
Adaptation
Release Date
Mar 1958
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.
Country
United States
Location
New York City, New York, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the play Morning Glory by Zoë Akins (Los Angeles, 17 Oct 1939).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 35m
Sound
Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)

Articles

Stage Struck


Henry Fonda had a lot of reasons for accepting his role as a suave theatrical producer in RKO's 1958 Stage Struck. With production planned entirely for New York City, a rarity for Hollywood at the time, it allowed him to continue living in the Big Apple and stay in close contact with his beloved Broadway. It also gave him a chance to re-unite with director Sidney Lumet, with whom he had just scored a big critical success on 12 Angry Men (1957). Unfortunately, neither of these reasons translated into a box office hit. Although the film provided a rare chance for Fonda to play a sophisticated, worldly man similar to his off-screen character and created a loving portrait of New York City, it was just another box-office failure for RKO pictures in the late '50s. The studio would go out of business within two years of its release.

Stage Struck was a remake of Morning Glory (1933), the film that won Katharine Hepburn an Oscar® for only her third picture. This time out, the role of an aspiring actress who'll give up anything -- even love -- to become a star went to another actress making her third screen appearance, Susan Strasberg. Strasberg had scored a hit on Broadway with the leading role in The Diary of Anne Frank. Her first two screen roles, as troubled teens in The Cobweb and Picnic (both 1955), had garnered more attention for her family connections; she was the daughter of legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. Writers Ruth and Augustus Goetz even inserted a few lines about his Actors Studio into their script for Stage Struck. Strasberg was thrilled to be working with Fonda, whom she had admired on stage in Mister Roberts. However, she was so short she couldn't kiss him without standing on a box.

The cast combined actors at the beginnings and ends of their careers. Herbert Marshall, who played a senior actor impressed with Strasberg's talents, had been making films for more than three decades. For him, Stage Struck was an oasis in a career that had begun drifting into B-grade genre films. The same year, he would share the screen with Vincent Price in The Fly, a film so ludicrous the two actors couldn't look at each other during their final scene without laughing. In her second American film, British star Joan Greenwood played a temperamental stage star modeled on Tallulah Bankhead. The same year, she would play another egocentric diva as Auntie Mame's best friend, Vera Charles. Making his film debut was Christopher Plummer, already an acclaimed stage actor for performances in the classics. Although he would continue building his career on stage, as the devil in Archibald MacLeish's J.B., and television, as a wounded veteran in love with Irish nun Julie Harris in Little Moon of Alban, it would take several years for Plummer to score a similar success on screen. It came when he starred opposite Julie Andrews in the box-office smash The Sound of Music (1965).

Lumet turned Stage Struck into a love letter to his home city, filming scenes in Greenwich Village, Times Square and Central Park. To keep the production entirely in New York, he rented studio space on 26th Street for interiors. Helping greatly in capturing the city's atmosphere was cinematographer Franz Planer. The Austrian born cameraman was probably best known for his use of a moving camera and deep shadows on three films with director Max Ophuls, Liebelei (1933), The Exile (1947) and RKO'S Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). Although he would never win an Oscar®, he had scored three Golden Globes in a row, for Champion (1949), Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) and Death of a Salesman (1951). On Stage Struck, he surprised Lumet by insisting on shooting a scene in Central Park during a blinding snowstorm. The results were spectacular and the cinematography was one of few things about Stage Struck to draw consistently favorable reviews. Most critics, however, felt that the plot had become irrelevant and dated since Hepburn had played it 25 years earlier. They also were quick to point out that Strasberg was no Hepburn, complaining that her performance was a little too mannered and passionless for the role. Some on-set observers have suggested the problem lay with her mother, acting coach Paula Srasberg, who worked with her on the role throughout the shoot. They felt her mother's coaching -- and the fear of her father's disapproval -- stifled her. As a result, the film and Strasberg never caught on at the box office.

Producer: Stuart Millar
Director: Sidney Lumet
Screenplay: Ruth and Augustus Goetz, based on the Play Morning Glory by Zoe Akins
Cinematography: Franz Planer
Art Direction: Kim Edgar Swadon
Music: Alex North
Cast: Henry Fonda (Lewis Easton), Susan Strasberg (Eva Lovelace), Joan Greenwood (Rita Vernon), Herbert Marshall (Robert Marley Hedges), Christopher Plummer (Joe Sheridan), Pat Harrington, Jr. (Benny), Frank Campanella (Benny), John Fiedler (Adrian), Jack Weston (Frank), Sally Gracie (Elizabeth), Roger C. Carmel (Stagehand).
C-95m. Closed captioning.

by Frank Miller
Stage Struck

Stage Struck

Henry Fonda had a lot of reasons for accepting his role as a suave theatrical producer in RKO's 1958 Stage Struck. With production planned entirely for New York City, a rarity for Hollywood at the time, it allowed him to continue living in the Big Apple and stay in close contact with his beloved Broadway. It also gave him a chance to re-unite with director Sidney Lumet, with whom he had just scored a big critical success on 12 Angry Men (1957). Unfortunately, neither of these reasons translated into a box office hit. Although the film provided a rare chance for Fonda to play a sophisticated, worldly man similar to his off-screen character and created a loving portrait of New York City, it was just another box-office failure for RKO pictures in the late '50s. The studio would go out of business within two years of its release. Stage Struck was a remake of Morning Glory (1933), the film that won Katharine Hepburn an Oscar® for only her third picture. This time out, the role of an aspiring actress who'll give up anything -- even love -- to become a star went to another actress making her third screen appearance, Susan Strasberg. Strasberg had scored a hit on Broadway with the leading role in The Diary of Anne Frank. Her first two screen roles, as troubled teens in The Cobweb and Picnic (both 1955), had garnered more attention for her family connections; she was the daughter of legendary acting teacher Lee Strasberg. Writers Ruth and Augustus Goetz even inserted a few lines about his Actors Studio into their script for Stage Struck. Strasberg was thrilled to be working with Fonda, whom she had admired on stage in Mister Roberts. However, she was so short she couldn't kiss him without standing on a box. The cast combined actors at the beginnings and ends of their careers. Herbert Marshall, who played a senior actor impressed with Strasberg's talents, had been making films for more than three decades. For him, Stage Struck was an oasis in a career that had begun drifting into B-grade genre films. The same year, he would share the screen with Vincent Price in The Fly, a film so ludicrous the two actors couldn't look at each other during their final scene without laughing. In her second American film, British star Joan Greenwood played a temperamental stage star modeled on Tallulah Bankhead. The same year, she would play another egocentric diva as Auntie Mame's best friend, Vera Charles. Making his film debut was Christopher Plummer, already an acclaimed stage actor for performances in the classics. Although he would continue building his career on stage, as the devil in Archibald MacLeish's J.B., and television, as a wounded veteran in love with Irish nun Julie Harris in Little Moon of Alban, it would take several years for Plummer to score a similar success on screen. It came when he starred opposite Julie Andrews in the box-office smash The Sound of Music (1965). Lumet turned Stage Struck into a love letter to his home city, filming scenes in Greenwich Village, Times Square and Central Park. To keep the production entirely in New York, he rented studio space on 26th Street for interiors. Helping greatly in capturing the city's atmosphere was cinematographer Franz Planer. The Austrian born cameraman was probably best known for his use of a moving camera and deep shadows on three films with director Max Ophuls, Liebelei (1933), The Exile (1947) and RKO'S Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948). Although he would never win an Oscar®, he had scored three Golden Globes in a row, for Champion (1949), Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) and Death of a Salesman (1951). On Stage Struck, he surprised Lumet by insisting on shooting a scene in Central Park during a blinding snowstorm. The results were spectacular and the cinematography was one of few things about Stage Struck to draw consistently favorable reviews. Most critics, however, felt that the plot had become irrelevant and dated since Hepburn had played it 25 years earlier. They also were quick to point out that Strasberg was no Hepburn, complaining that her performance was a little too mannered and passionless for the role. Some on-set observers have suggested the problem lay with her mother, acting coach Paula Srasberg, who worked with her on the role throughout the shoot. They felt her mother's coaching -- and the fear of her father's disapproval -- stifled her. As a result, the film and Strasberg never caught on at the box office. Producer: Stuart Millar Director: Sidney Lumet Screenplay: Ruth and Augustus Goetz, based on the Play Morning Glory by Zoe Akins Cinematography: Franz Planer Art Direction: Kim Edgar Swadon Music: Alex North Cast: Henry Fonda (Lewis Easton), Susan Strasberg (Eva Lovelace), Joan Greenwood (Rita Vernon), Herbert Marshall (Robert Marley Hedges), Christopher Plummer (Joe Sheridan), Pat Harrington, Jr. (Benny), Frank Campanella (Benny), John Fiedler (Adrian), Jack Weston (Frank), Sally Gracie (Elizabeth), Roger C. Carmel (Stagehand). C-95m. Closed captioning. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The opening credits begin with the following written statement: "This picture was filmed entirely in New York City." The opening screenwriting credit reads: "Screenplay by Ruth and Augustus Goetz." In the scene in which "Eva Lovelace" performs at a nightclub, Susan Strasberg recites the A. E. Houseman poem "When I Was One and Twenty" and part of Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee." During the party scene, she and Herbert Marshall perform almost all of Act II, Scene II of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
       According to modern sources, David O. Selznick originally expressed interest in Stage Struck as a vehicle for Jennifer Jones, under the direction of Harold Clurman. Daily Variety reported on July 9, 1956 that the Goetzes has been signed to write the script, an adaptation of Zoë Atkins' play, which had earlier been filmed in 1933 by RKO under the title Morning Glory (directed by Lowell Sherman and starring Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Adolphe Menjou; see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40). Jean Simmons was originally cast as Eva, but according to a March 6, 1958 "Rambling Reporter" item in Hollywood Reporter, she left the production to star in Dr. Spock, a film that was never made. Canadian-born actor Christopher Plummer made his feature film debut in Stage Struck.
       As noted in the Motion Picture Herald review, Stage Struck was the first feature produced by RKO after the liquidation of its domestic distribution arm. That review estimates the film's budget at $2 million. According to modern sources, Strasberg, the daughter of renowned acting teacher Lee Strasberg, was hampered during production by the constant presence of her father. [Lee Strasberg was artistic director of the Actors Studio, which is referred to in the film.] Strasberg stated in a modern interview that she revered Fonda, who remained "removed and aloof" during filming. Although the Hollywood Reporter reviewer called her performance "brilliant," most critics compared Strasberg unfavorably to Hepburn, who won her first Academy Award as Best Actress in the original role of Eva.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter February 1958

Remake of "Morning Glory" (1933).

Released in United States Winter February 1958