Previous Next 

Dec 03 2012
It's A Gift Comments (4)

Stage-Door-autograph-Jean-Rouverol-ButlerRouverol as she appears today, along with her autograph

My bestie Gordon was aghast when I recently confessed I had never seen Stage Door (1937), so muh so that he purchased a copy on Amazon for himself and had it shipped to me so I could indulge before handing it over. This story of a boarding house for ambitious actresses and dancers was worth his effort—a hilarious comedy, an affecting melodrama and more stars/familiar names than you know what to do with, including Katharine Hepburn (1907—2003), Ginger Rogers (1911—1995), Adolphe Menjou (1890—1963), Lucille Ball (1911—1989), Franklin Pangborn (1889—1958), Eve Arden (1908—1990) and Ann Miller (1923—2004).

Ann-Miller-Ginger-Rogers-stage_door_PDVD_00901Ann Miller and Ginger Rogers cut a rug (or two)

Andrea_Leeds_in_Stage_Door_trailerGordon was fascinated by the story of Andrea Leeds (1914—1984), who received much acclaim as terminally dejected "Kay Hamilton," an actress beginning to realize that her greatest glory on stage had already happened. Leeds left Hollywood after marrying rich and died relatively young (69) of cancer. Just as fascinating to me was realizing another of the film's actresses, Gail Patrick (1911—1980) also married rich (third time was a charm) and gave up her career, also dying of cancer at the same age.

Jean-RouverolBut as I always do with old movies, I immediately searched to see if anyone could possibly still be alive from a production that would have been filmed 76 years ago...and I found one. Jean Rouverol (1916—), who played "Dizzy," is still alive and after being blacklisted in the '50s as a Communist (and fleeing with her family to Mexico to avoid being subpoenaed) enjoyed a writing career and several stints on the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America.

Along with Stage Door, she appeared as W.C. Fields's daughter in It's a Gift (1934), which featured this famous scene:

Ms. Rouverol was easy to find, so I sent a vintage Stage Door ad from a magazine, which was promptly returned signed "Jean Rouverol Butler" (her married name). Her assistant sent an article about Rouverol and her live-in companion, 97-year-old voice actor Cliff Carpenter (1915—) along with the signed ad.

Amazing interaction. They sound tough as nails.