This post is part of Backlots’ 4th Annual Dueling Divas Blogathon. Check out the other entries!
If you haven’t seen Jean (Ginger Rogers) squabble with Linda (Gail Patrick) in Stage Door, I envy you. It’s just such a pleasure. Three minutes into the movie, they are already at it: Jean thinks Linda has stolen her stockings—again—and she’ll forcibly remove them if she has to.
The two are roommates in the Footlights Club, a residence for aspiring stage performers, and their uncomfortably close quarters obviously are doing nothing for either’s temper. Linda denies the theft, calling Jean a “hoyden” and “guttersnipe.” Jean, sensitive to cracks about her class, says she’ll “slap [Linda’s] ears flat against the back of her head.” It takes the manager to prevent blows.
It’s the end of their relationship as roommates, but just the beginning of our enjoyment of their rivalry.
“If you were a little more considerate of your elders,” Linda smirks to Jean, “maybe Mr. Powell would send his car for you someday….Course he would probably take one look at you and send you right back again. But then you’d have to expect that.”
“Oh, is that so?” Jean answers, imitating Linda’s superior tone.
“Do you know I think I could fix you up with Mr. Powell’s chauffeur?” Linda adds. “The chauffeur has a very nice car too.”
“Yes, but I understand that Mr. Powell’s chauffeur doesn’t go as far in his car as Mr. Powell does.”
“Even a chauffeur has to have an incentive,” says Linda.
“Well, you should know,” Jean snaps.
Although she judges Linda for sleeping with Powell, Jean still envies her for the rich food and garb her actions afford her. “Say, I think it’s very unselfish for those little animals to give up their lives to keep other animals warm,” she says, admiring Linda’s furs.
“Well,” says Jean, “you understand the rodent family much better than I do.”
Unfortunately for Linda, Mr. Powell takes a liking to Jean, and hires her for a gig at his nightclub. Sitting next to her boyfriend, Linda realizes just whom he’s hired…
Powell is curious about—but not put off by—Jean’s disinterest in him. “You don’t like me, do you?” he asks her.
“Oh, how could I help but like a man who takes his mother out to a nightclub,” coos Jean. “That was your mother you were sitting with?”
Jean decides to date him, even though he initially made her want to “run home and put on a tin overcoat.” How could she resist such revenge while getting a taste of the finer things in life?
Linda even gives her former roommate some advice, which, of course, is intended to poison their first date. “May I come in?” she begins, entering her room.
“Oh sure, I guess you’ll be safe,” Jean says, “the exterminators won’t be here till tomorrow.”
“How did they miss you on their last visit?” Linda quips.
“Just a leave of absence, dearie,” explains Linda, “and in the meantime, I have my lovely sable coat and my star sapphire to keep me company.”
“It’s lovely, but I’m afraid you paid too much for it.”
The dialogue gives you a taste of these two together, but I can’t capture the chemistry, or the sparkling delivery—Ginger Rogers, with her snappy sarcasm, at her tough-gal best. Gail Patrick, with the flawless cool customer routine she perfected the year before in My Man Godfrey. The two together are magnetic.
The best part? There’s another rivalry in the film too—between Rogers and Katharine Hepburn, which is almost as fun.
For more dueling divas, check out the other entries in the blogathon!