Stage Struck

  • 1958
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Drama

The film adaptation of Zoe Akins' play "Morning Glory" served to win Katharine Hepburn an Oscar in 1933. This was the second time around for the tale, which was already an old story when it was done the first time. We'd seen the same yarn in 42ND STREET, ALL ABOUT EVE, and many other movies. Lumet was doing his second film after 12 ANGRY MEN and he cast...read more

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The film adaptation of Zoe Akins' play "Morning Glory" served to win Katharine Hepburn an Oscar in 1933. This was the second time around for the tale, which was already an old story when it was done the first time. We'd seen the same yarn in 42ND STREET, ALL ABOUT EVE, and many other

movies. Lumet was doing his second film after 12 ANGRY MEN and he cast 20-year-old Strasberg in the Hepburn role after her successful outing in Broadway's "The Diary of Anne Frank" and a bit part in PICNIC three years before. 29-year-old producer Millar assembled a New York cast and shot the film

entirely in Manhattan and environs, with interiors done at the West 26th Street Production Center studio. New England actress Strasberg comes to New York from a small town and is determined to make her name on the stage. She meets Fonda, a successful producer, and he shares her belief in herself,

perhaps because he's fallen in love with her. For no apparent reason, Strasberg also attracts playwright Plummer and veteran actor Marshall, both of whom see something in her that movie audiences didn't. Plummer, in his film debut, doesn't show much of what he was to demonstrate later, as he

spends most of his time reacting and wearing a silly grin. Strasberg attends a party with the men, drinks too much, and then does the entire balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet" for the assemblage. She is tense about it but does it well enough to convince everyone in the group that she has some

acting talent. Strasberg then falls asleep in the bedroom, and when she wakes up, only Fonda is there. She tells him that she loves him, but he says that nepotism is not in his makeup, and if she is going to triumph on the stage, she'll have to do it on talent only; he suggests that it might be

better if they only saw each other professionally. Fonda is producing Plummer's latest play, which stars Greenwood (in her second US film). Plummer moves in to "manage" Strasberg's career and, at the same time, finds much fault in the temperamental Greenwood (in a thinly disguised mimicry of

Tallulah Bankhead). When Greenwood throws a fit and strolls out on the production, Strasberg, who has been carefully coached in the role all along by Plummer, is ready to go on in Greenwood's stead. Plummer talks Fonda into allowing Strasberg to play the part. She does, and the result is a

smashing performance (did you think for one millisecond that it wouldn't be?). Everyone loves Strasberg, and she is suddenly transformed from a sweet young ingenue to a woman of the theater. Fonda, Plummer, and Marshall see that alteration and know that there is nary an inch of room in her life

for any man; she is devoted to her work now. Perhaps in a few years, when she realizes that the applause of the crowd is fleeting, she might find a moment for romance, but for the present her goal is fame and fame only.

Fonda preferred living in New York, and the idea of making a movie about theater, his first love, appealed to him, but this picture did virtually nothing for his career. Strasberg is the daughter of Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors Studio and sometime actor himself before his death. It came as a

bit of a surprise that she did a few lines in the film about the Actors Studio which were almost a commercial for the facility. There's lots of inside material here about the New York stage and a good look at what actually happens backstage, in the producer's office, in the dressing room, etcetera. It was not generally interesting enough to a non-show-biz audience, however, and didn't do sparkling business. Note Jack Weston, Pat Harrington, and Roger C. Carmel in small roles. All three went on to make their marks in later years. There's one wonderful snow-filled scene in the park

that Planer photographed in a pelting storm. It's a highlight. Strasberg went on to show that she had more acting ability than she demonstrated in this film. Her problem may have been that her mother, Paula, was on the set almost constantly, and Strasberg was unable to let go in front of her.

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  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The film adaptation of Zoe Akins' play "Morning Glory" served to win Katharine Hepburn an Oscar in 1933. This was the second time around for the tale, which was already an old story when it was done the first time. We'd seen the same yarn in 42ND STREET, A… (more)

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