The Best Old Movies On a Big Screen This Week: February 18-24

02/18/2015 8:16 AM |

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Stage Door (1937)
Directed by Gregory La Cava
Ginger Rogers was many things onscreen—a great dancer, yes, as well as a great comic performer, and one of Hollywood’s best embodiments of a working-class heroine. Her characters fought to stake material claims within a competitive world while also striving to leave themselves some space for inner kindness, a tension seen in the way that her strong, stiff back and shoulders led up to beautifully harsh-or-melting eyes. In Rogers’s first of three films with the gifted La Cava, she plays the center of energy at a New York boarding home for young theater actresses. The girls’ struggling ranks are joined by a wealthy newcomer (played by Katharine Hepburn) who moves into Ginger’s room and bears her new bunkmate’s rivalrous attentions on the way to claiming the lead role in a Broadway show. Rogers emits delightful wisecracks while creating a drama unto herself: As Hepburn’s neophyte tries to surmount mounting stage fright, the tough girl learns to forgive another woman her success. Aaron Cutler (Feb 18-20, 1:30pm at MoMA’s “Acteurism: Ginger Rogers”)