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It takes more than greasepaint and footlights to make an actress.
Set in a theatrical boardinghouse in New York City called the Footlights Club, it's about a group of would-be actresses struggling for their big break. Into the boardinghouse comes Terry Randall, who comes from a wealthy background, is rich, and is immediately disliked by many of the others. Gradually, however, she wins them all over.
This film provides examples of:
- All-Star Cast: See above.
- Big Applesauce: Well, they are trying to make it on Broadway.
- Big Lipped Alligator Moment: In-universe; everyone who isn't living at the Footlights Club is puzzled by Terry's curtain speech.
- Brick Joke: Judy is always going out with men from her hometown of Seattle. At the end of the movie, she's going to get married to one of them.
- Also, Mary Lou comments at how many times she's performed as a spectator, but by the end of the movie, she finally gets a small part in a play.
- The Danza: Eve Arden's character is named Eve, and Ann Miller's character is named Annie.
- Deadpan Snarker: Just about all of the actresses at the Footlights Club (except Kaye and Miss Luther), but especially Jean, Judy, Eve and Linda.
- The Ditz: Mary Lou.
Judy: Shake your head.
Mary Lou: Why?
Judy: Never mind, just shake your head. (Mary Lou does) That's what I thought; I can hear a rattle just as plain.
- Don't Do Anything I Wouldn't Do: Played with:
Eve: Remember, Hattie, don't do anything Butch wouldn't do.
- Driven to Suicide: Kaye
- Enforced Method Acting: The cast was made to hang out for several weeks, and most of the banter in the movie came from that.
- Ensemble Cast: Though only Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers were well-known at the time, today's viewers will find the rest of the cast pretty impressive.
- Genre Savvy: Surprisingly, Terry. Not only does she figure out pretty quickly Anthony Powell is trying to put the moves on her, she's also the only one of his "conquests" to realize his so-called "wife and son" are fake.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: This exchange:
Ann: (to Jean) Maybe you ought to stop at the filling station and get yourself pumped up!
Judy: Well, she ain't exactly a flat, dearie, just a slow leak.
- There's also the scene where Terry first moves into Jean's room with all of her clothes, which she was able to afford due to her rich grandfather.
Jean: I must say, he's a generous old guy, as far as grandfathers go.
Terry: He always treated me fine.
Jean: I suppose if you had your choice, you'd have picked a much younger grandfather.
- Heroic BSOD: Terry has one of these after finding out about Kaye's suicide, though she does recover in time for her performance opening night.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Who knew Lucy Ricardo and Connie Brooks were both struggling actresses before they hit it big?
- Insistent Terminology:
Linda: If I have to have a stooge, you might at least get me someone interesting.
Harcourt: I hate that word 'stooge'. I'm retained as an escort.
Linda: Stooge is good enough.
- Irony as She Is Cast: Katharine Hepburn had already won an Oscar when she was cast as the talent-free Terry Randall. She does get better, though.
- Also, the little-known Andrea Leeds played Kaye Hamilton, considered by the others to be the best actress in the bunch.
- Knew It All Along: Anthony Powell acts this way when it turns out Terry is a success; also when he meets Terry's father.
- Mood Whiplash: The movie swings between the comedy of the actresses bickering at each other and the heartbreak of Kaye's life, especially after she kills herself.
- Only Sane Woman: Terry and Miss Luther both see themselves as this, though Terry eventually gets better.
- Pass the Popcorn: Played with; there's no popcorn in evidence when Jean accuses Linda of stealing her stockings, but the way the other women act, there might as well be.
Oh, Mrs. Orcott! Linda's doing a striptease!
You can get a bigger crowd in the street.
- Rapid-Fire Comedy
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jean gives one to Anthony Powell and Terry when she (wrongly) suspects him cheating on her with Terry:
Jean: I thought I was in love with you. I only went out with you in the first place to spit Linda. (Terry buries her head) Yes, you should be ashamed, you double-dealing, double-crossing...
Terry: Darling, I didn't know what I was doing.
Jean: You and your grandfather...preaches ideals so she can chisel when my back is turned. Well, you can take your old red fox cape. I'll never borrow another thing from you as long as I live. And don't try to borrow anything from me either. I hope you two snakes will be very happy together.
- She gives another, more serious one to Terry before she goes on, and after Kaye's suicide:
Jean: She is responsible. It was Kaye's part, it was Kaye's life, but now it's too late. Kaye is dead...Kaye who never harmed anyone. It's all because she (Terry) hasn't any heart, because she's made out of ice.
Miss Luther: I can't listen anymore, you must leave!
Jean: Oh, I'll go. I'm gonna go sit out front because Kaye asked me to be there. And every line that she reads, I'm gonna say, 'That should have been Kaye's line.' And every move you make, I'm gonna say, 'That should have been Kaye.' Kaye - who is lying in a morgue all broken and alone. And I dare ya to go on tonight.
Jean: By way of variety, let's complain about the food.
- Sarcasm Mode: Jean's default mode, though Annie, Eve, Judy and some of the others in the Club are like that as well.
- Snark to Snark Combat: Jean vs. Linda, Jean vs. Terry, Jean vs. Anthony Powell (at least until she briefly started going out with him).
- Springtime for Hitler: Terry's father, Henry Sims (a wheat magnate), doesn't want Terry to act, and tries unsuccessfully to talk her out of it at a lunch. So, in order to get her to stop, he secretly backs Anthony Powell's new play, through his lawyer Carmichael, on the condition Terry star in it. Given Terry is not only inexperienced but is constantly questioning everybody, he figures the play will flop, and Terry will come back to him. However, the whole thing backfires because Terry, heartbroken when she finds out just before the curtain goes up Kaye wanted her role and killed herself because she didn't get it, gives a terrific performance that wows the audience, the critics, and the flabbergasted Powell (not to mention the director, writer and co-star she questioned), and the play is a hit, which means Terry is leaving her father for good.
- Wham! Line: "It's Kaye. She jumped before I could stop her".
- Younger Than They Look: Ann Miller was all of 14 years old when she was cast.