AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Stage Door Canteen
Director: Frank Borzage (Dir)
Release Date:   1943
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 24 Jun 1943
Production Date:   30 Nov 1942--late Jan 1943 at Fox Movietone Studio, NY and RKO Pathe Studios in Los Angeles, CA
Duration (in mins):   132
Duration (in feet):   11,864
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Cast: The Players: Judith Anderson    
    Kenny Baker    
    Tallulah Bankhead    
    Ralph Bellamy    
    Edgar Bergen   and Charlie McCarthy
    Ray Bolger    
    Ina Claire    
    Katharine Cornell    
    Gracie Fields    
    Lynn Fontanne    
    Helen Hayes    
    Katharine Hepburn    
    Hugh Herbert    
    Jean Hersholt    
    George Jessel    
    Gypsy Rose Lee    
    Alfred Lunt    
    Harpo Marx    
    Elsa Maxwell    
    Yehudi Menuhin    
    Ethel Merman    
    Paul Muni    
    Merle Oberon    
    George Raft    
    Lanny Ross    
    Martha Scott    
    Ethel Waters    
    Johnny Weissmuller    
    Ed Wynn    
  And Henry Armetta    
    Benny Baker    
    Helen Broderick    
    Lloyd Corrigan    
    Jane Darwell    
    William Demarest    
    Virginia Field    
    Vinton Freedley    
    Ann Gillis    
    Lucille Gleason    
    Vera Gordon    
    Virginia Grey    
    Sam Jaffe    
    Allen Jenkins    
    Roscoe Karns    
    Tom Kennedy    
    Otto Kruger    
    June Lang    
    Betty Lawford    
    Bert Lytell    
    Aline MacMahon    
    Horace MacMahon    
    Helen Menken    
    Peggy Moran    
    Ralph Morgan    
    Alan Mowbray    
    Elliott Nugent    
    Patrick O'Moore (The Australian)  
    Franklin Pangborn    
    Helen Parrish    
    Brock Pemberton    
    Selena Royle    
    Marion Shockley (Lillian )  
    Cornelia Otis Skinner    
    Ned Sparks    
    Bill Stern    
    Arleen Whelan    
    Dame May Whitty   And other celebrated artists from Stage, Screen and Radio
  The Bands Count Basie    
    Xavier Cugat    
    Benny Goodman    
    Kay Kyser    
    Guy Lombardo    
    Freddy Martin    
  The Story Characters: Cheryl Walker (Eileen)  
    William Terry (Dakota [Ed Smith])  
    Marjorie Riordan (Jean)  
    Lon McCallister (California)  
    Margaret Early (Ella Sue)  
    Michael Harrison (Tex)  
    Dorothea Kent (Mamie)  
    Fred Brady (Jersey)  
    Peggy Lee    
    Lina Romay    
    Sully Mason    
    Harry Babbitt    
    Julie Conway    
    Trudy Irwin    
    Jack Max    
    Helene Dumas    
    Dorothy Fields    
    Arlene Francis    
    Virginia Kaye    
    Marion Moore    
    Elizabeth Morgan    

Summary: During World War II, soldiers "Dakota" Ed Smith, "California," "Tex" and "Jersey" ride a train bound for New York, where they will be shipped out. California, a naïve small-town boy, befriends Dakota, who has no family. When the soldiers arrive in New York, they are given twenty-four hours leave, and all end up at the Stage Door Canteen, a restaurant for servicemen operated by many famous personalities. Included in the Canteen's guidelines is the fact that female hostesses are not allowed to make dates with soldiers from the Canteen. The soldiers are surprised to meet comedian Ed Wynn checking hats, actor Alan Mowbray waiting tables and George Raft washing dishes. Aspiring actress Eileen volunteers as a hostess and meets Dakota, while her roommate Jean sits with California, and Ella Sue meets fellow Southerner Tex. Jersey, meanwhile, visits his fiancée Mamie in New Jersey. The next day, the soldiers are given more leave and Jersey gets permission from his commanding officer to marry Mamie, while the rest of the soldiers return to the Canteen. Although Dakota likes Eileen, he is put off by her snobbery and leaves. A battalion of Marines is ordered to ship out that night, and everyone joins in a chorus of "The Marines' Hymn" to show their support. Jean, delighted by California's sweet nature, agrees to be his "number one girl," and the next day at camp, Mamie arrives to marry Jersey. That same day, Eileen is thrilled when she gets a lead role in a play opposite Paul Muni, but her excitement is diminished by the realization that she genuinely loves Dakota, whom she has offended. That night at the Canteen, soldiers are entertained by Ethel Waters and the Count Basie Orchestra, and by a performance by renowned stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, among others. California sneaks in his first kiss ever with Jean. Despite regulations, Eileen and Dakota meet that night outside her apartment and become engaged. Because of this, Eileen is barred from the Canteen for breaking their rules. When actress Katharine Hepburn learns that the couple did not just date but became engaged, she bends the rules and allows Eileen in so that she can meet Dakota. Unfortunately, Dakota and his friends have all been shipped out, but an Australian soldier delivers a message from him that he wants to marry Eileen on his return. Hepburn gives the tearful Eileen a stern talk about supporting all the soldiers even though she misses Dakota, and Eileen returns to work in the Canteen. 

Production Company: Principal Artists Productions  
Production Text: A Frank Borzage Production
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Frank Borzage (Dir)
  Lew Borzage (Asst dir)
  Virgil Hart (Asst dir)
Producer: Sol Lesser (Pres)
  Sol Lesser (Prod)
  Barney Briskin (Assoc prod)
Writer: Delmer Daves (Orig scr)
Photography: Harry Wild (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Harry Horner (Prod des by)
  Hans Peters (Art dir)
Film Editor: Hal Kern (Ed supv)
Set Decoration: Victor Gangelin (Interiors)
Costumes: Albert Deano (Ward)
Music: Freddie Rich (Mus score)
  C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
Sound: Hugh McDowell (Sd tech)
Make Up: Irving Berns (Makeup)
Production Misc: Radie Harris (Talent coordinator)
Country: United States

Music: "Bugle Call Rag," music by Elmer Schoebel, Billy Meyers and Jack Pettis; "Flight of the Bumble Bee," music by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov; "Ave Maria," music by Franz Schubert.
Songs: "A Rookie and His Rhythm," "She's a Bombshell from Brooklyn," "We Mustn't Say Goodbye," "Sleep Baby Sleep (in Your Jeep)," "Don't Worry Island," "You're Pretty Terrific Yourself" and "Quicksand," music by James V. Monaco, lyrics by Al Dubin; "The Girl I Love to Leave Behind," music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart; "The Machine Gun Song," music and lyrics by Al Hoffman, Mann Curtis, Cy Corbin and Jerry Livingston; "The Lord's Prayer," music by Albert Hay Malotte, words traditional; "Good Night, Sweetheart," music and lyrics by Ray Noble, James Campbell and Reginald Connelly; "Marching Through Berlin," music and lyrics by Harry Miller and Robert Reed; "Rhumba-Rhumba," music and lyrics by Castro Valencia and Joe Pasumy; "Why Don't You Do Right," music and lyrics by Joe McCoy; "The Marines' Hymn," music based on a theme from the opera Geneviève de Brabant by Jacques Offenbach, lyrics anonymous.
Composer: James Campbell
  Reginald Connelly
  Cy Corbin
  Mann Curtis
  Al Dubin
  Lorenz Hart
  Al Hoffman
  Jerry Livingston
  Albert Hay Malotte
  Joe McCoy
  Billy Meyers
  Harry Miller
  James V. Monaco
  Ray Noble
  Jacques Offenbach
  Joe Pasumy
  Jack Pettis
  Robert Reed
  Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov
  Richard Rodgers
  Elmer Schoebel
  Franz Schubert
  Castro Valencia

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Principal Artists Productions 14/6/1943 dd/mm/yyyy LP12294

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

 
Genre: Musical
Sub-Genre: Homefront
 
Subjects (Major): Actors and actresses
  Romance
  Soldiers
  Stage Door Canteen (New York, NY)
 
Subjects (Minor): Australians
  Engagements
  Jealousy
  New York City
  Orchestras
  Romeo and Juliet (Play)
  Singers
  World War II

Note: The following acknowledgment appeared in the opening credits: "All rights granted by the American Theatre Wing which gratefully acknowledges and credits the producers, stars and members of all the theatrical unions, guilds, crafts and associations for their participation in the creation and continuance of the original Stage Door Canteen." The Stage Door Canteen, located at 44th Street in New York City, was operated during World War II by the American Theatre Wing as a restaurant and nightclub for servicemen. Volunteers working at the Canteen included stars from stage and screen. Although the onscreen credit lists the associate producer as Barney Briskin, various reviews call him "Barnett" Briskin.
       According to a news item in NYT , the interior design of the Stage Door Canteen was reproduced at the Fox Movietone Studio and at RKO Studio in Hollywood, where this film was shot, as shooting in the actual Canteen was difficult. According to an article in Movie Life magazine, producer Sol Lesser paid the Canteen $50,000 for the use of its name, and the Canteen and Allied Charities received the net profit from the film. As noted by an article in NYT , the Screen Actors Guild adopted a prohibition against "free appearances by actors in charity pictures" shortly before this film was produced. "The rule was adopted because eight cinematic projects were brought to the attention of the Guild's board of directors for which the sponsors made an appeal 'on the basis of patriotism by allocating part or all of the net earnings of the picture to charity.'" The Guild hoped that this ruling would prevent actors' generosity from being exploited.
       HR noted the following about the production: HR news items reported that Art Arthur was to write the script, and that Paramount considered using Leith Stevens' composition "America Fighting" in the film. In addition, Robert E. Sherwood was hired to write "special patriotic sequences," and Lesser conferred with writer Rachel Crothers about contributing dramatic sequences. The contribution of these writers to the final film has not been determined. Among the performers considered for appearances, but who did not appear in the film were Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, Marlene Dietrich, Billie Burke, Loretta Young, Gladys George, Constance Collier, the Ritz Brothers, Sid Grauman, Patricia Morison and Eddie Cantor. Al Jolson was slated to sing a song by Al Dubin and James Monaco, in a sequence written by William Collier, Sr. In addition, NYT reported that Gertrude Lawrence and Ilka Chase were slated to appear, and HR reported that Jack Benny agreed to appear if violinist Jascha Heifetz performed in the film. Some scenes were shot on location at Fort MacArthur, CA. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Music (Scoring of a Music Picture), and for the song, "We Mustn't Say Goodbye." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   15 May 1943.   
Daily Variety   31 Dec 1942.   
Daily Variety   8-Jan-43   
Daily Variety   12 May 43   pp. 3, 15
Film Daily   12 May 43   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Apr 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Sep 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Oct 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 42   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Nov 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Dec 42   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Dec 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jan 1943.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jan 1943.   
Hollywood Reporter   1 Feb 43   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   16 Mar 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 43   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 43   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 43   pp. 6-7.
Motion Picture Herald   15 May 1943.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   16 Jan 43   p. 1115.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   15 May 43   p. 1313.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   17 Jul 43   p. 1432.
Movie Life   May 1943.   
New York Times   20 Sep 1942.   
New York Times   10 Jan 1943.   
New York Times   25 Jun 43   p. 13.
New Yorker   26 Jun 1943.   
Variety   12 May 43   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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