AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Stage Struck
Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
Release Date:   Mar 1958
Production Date:   21 Jan--early Mar 1957 at the Production Center
Duration (in mins):   95
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Cast:   Henry Fonda (Lewis Easton)  
    Susan Strasberg (Gertrude Langerfelder, also known as Eva Lovelace)  
    Joan Greenwood (Rita Vernon)  
    Herbert Marshall (Robert Harley Hedges)  
  and introducing Christopher Plummer (Joseph Sheridan)  
    Daniel Ocko (Constantine)  
    Pat Harrington (Benny)  
    Frank Campanella (Victor)  
    John Fiedler (Adrian)  
    Patricia Englund (Gwen Hall)  
    Jack Weston (Frank)  
    Sally Gracie (Elizabeth)  
    Nina Hansen (Regina)  
    Harold Grau (Doorman)  
    Leon Bibb (Guitar player)  
    Estelle Ritchie (Nebraska-type woman)  
    Charles C. Welch (Joe Adams)  
    Lester Laurence (Box office attendant)  
    Floyd Ennis (Theater doorman)  
    James C. Kelly (New York Times truckman)  
    Fred J. Scollay (Bum)  
    Clint Young (Tom, the chauffeur)  
    Alonzo Bosan (Lewis' butler)  
    Eileen Summers (Female visitor)  
    Tom Gorman (Older man)  
    Hilda Haynes (Lewis' maid)  
    Suzanne Eden (Jane Cornelius)  
    Robert A. Brown (Handsome young man)  
    George McCoy (Handsome young man)  
    Dario Barry (Handsome young man)  
    Monroe Lockwood (Stagehand)  
    Robert Cromwell (Stagehand)  
    Bernie Styles (Stagehand)  
    Roger C. Carmel (Stagehand)  
    Billy M. Greene    
    Merle A. Ashley    
    Gordon Peters    
    Ruth Holden    
    William Capra    
    Jacqueline Wren Brown    
    E. F. Medard    
    Charles E. Jordan    
    Muni Seroff    
    Romaine Milford-Haven    
    Carol Grace    
    Rolly Bester    
    Florence Wyatt    

Summary: 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. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: William Dozier in charge of production
Distribution Company: Buena Vista Film Distribution Co., Inc.  
Director: Sidney Lumet (Dir)
  Charles H. Maguire (Asst dir)
Producer: Stuart Millar (Prod)
Writer: Ruth Goetz (Scr)
  Augustus Goetz (Scr)
Photography: Franz F. Planer (Dir of photog)
  Maurice Hartzband (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Kim Edgar Swados (Art dir)
Film Editor: Stuart Gilmore (Film ed)
Costumes: Moss Mabry (Cost)
  Fred Gwinn (Addl cost)
  Florence Transfield (Ward coord)
Music: Alex North (Mus comp)
Sound: James A. Gleason (Sd)
  Terry Kellum (Sd)
Make Up: Robert Jiras (Makeup)
  Willis Hanchett (Hair styles)
Production Misc: George Justin (Prod mgr)
  Dick Weaver (Unit pub)
Color Personnel: Robert Brower (Col consultant)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text: Based on the play Morning Glory by Zoë Akins (Los Angeles, 17 Oct 1939).
Authors: Zoë Akins

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Teleradio Pictures, Inc. 5/4/1958 dd/mm/yyyy LP10487

PCA NO: 18554
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound Recording
  col: Technicolor

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Show business
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  New York City--Broadway
  Theatrical producers
Subjects (Minor): Amateur theater
  "Annabel Lee" (Poem)
  Class distinction
  New York City--Central Park
  Romeo and Juliet (Play)
  Theatrical directors
  Unrequited love

Note: 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. DV reported on 9 Jul 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 6 Mar 1958 "Rambling Reporter" item in HR , 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 MPH 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 HR 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
American Cinematographer   Jan 1957   p. 8.
Box Office   24 Mar 1958.   
Daily Variety   9 Jul 1956.   
Daily Variety   26 Feb 58   p. 3.
Film Daily   6 Mar 58   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Jan 1956   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Mar 1956   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jan 1957   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jan 1957   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 1957   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Mar 1957   p. 24.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Feb 58   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   1 Mar 58   p. 732.
New York Times   23 Apr 58   p. 40.
Variety   26 Feb 58   p. 6.

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