Stage Door [1937]

Stage Door Canteen (1943), directed by Frank Borzage (A Farewell to Arms) in support of the war effort, prefigures Anchors Aweigh and On the Town in depicting the lives of servicemen on leave in the big city. Countless British and American celebrities put in an appearance--everyone from Dame Judith Anderson to Katharine Hepburn, Count Basie to Benny Goodman. The story concerns three soldiers and the female volunteers they fall for at the canteen of the title--a real-life Manhattan nightspot--before shipping out for points unknown. While the largely unknown principals (Cheryl Walker, William Terry, etc.) handle the drama and romance, bigger stars like Harpo Marx and Tallulah Bankhead take care of the comedy and scene-stealing supporting bits. This historical document was most commonly shown in an edited-for-TV 93-minute version but is now available again in its original--more entertaining--132-minute length. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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