Not Overly Struck
How do you play a part which Katharine Hepburn had already played? That is the problem which presented itself to Susan Strasberg when she was cast as Eva Lovelace in "Stage Struck" a remake of the 1933 movie "Morning Glory". Well what Strasberg does is make the character of Lovelace over the top almost seeming to try and out luvvie Hepburn which makes it uncomfortable yet still compelling like when you have to look at a road accident as you drive by. Aside from that well "Stage Struck" takes us back to some familiar territory as a wide eyed young actress arrives in New York with dreams of stardom whilst naive to the various sharks in the industry.
Young Eva Lovelace (Susan Strasberg - Picnic) arrives in New York with dreams of becoming a star of the stage and after taking in the sights makes it to the offices of producer Lewis Easton (Henry Fonda - 12 Angry Men) who takes no notice of the determined and talkative young star. But whilst there she not only meets sympathetic old actor Robert Harley Hedges (Herbert Marshall) who tries to offer her advice but also young writer and director Joe Sheridan (Christopher Plummer - Inside Man) who takes a shine to the enthusiastic young wannabee. Despite not having a part for the over eager young star Joe ends up taking Eva to opening night of his new play and to the first night party afterwards where having drunk to much champagne she captivates the party goers with her rendition of Romeo & Juliet. She also captivates Easton who ends up taking advantage of her but then feels guilty come the next morning. As time passes Eva starts making a name for herself on the stage whilst still holding a torch for Easton despite it being obvious that Joe is fond of her.
From a storyline point of view there isn't a great deal to say about "Stage Struck" because it isn't the first movie to focus on a wide eyed young actress in the big city learning some tough industry lessons along the way. I would almost say that it is just an ordinary story about the theatre with the romantic subplot never really coming to the fore because of a lack of chemistry between actors prevents it from really having meaning. Not that there is anything wrong with the story it goes through the motions but doesn't grab you with anything really new to set it apart from the various other movies about stardom.
So what does that leave well there is some nice solid acting with Henry Fonda playing it very low key as Lewis Easton, maybe a little too low key as despite taking advantage of the young Lovelace comes across as an alright guy. Then there is Christopher Plummer making his big screen debut as Joe and Plummer has the look of a handsome young writer and director who is the real good guy but the character is so slimly written that Plummer is unable to do a great deal with the character.
But the thing about "Stage Struck" is that it ends up all about Susan Strasberg and her over the top performance as Eva. In the opening series of scenes when she shows up at Easton's office the way she comes across is not just as theatrical but delusional and almost quite scary in the way she stares so intensely at the people she talks to. Combine that with director Sidney Lumet giving us lingering close ups and it all ends up very uncomfortable and frankly wrong as if at any point Eva is going to turn psycho. Yet it is Strasberg's over the top theatrics which keeps you watching in a sort of car crash kind of way.
What this all boils down to is that "Stage Struck" without Strasberg and her wildly over the top performance would just be another forgettable drama about a young star trying to make it big on stage.