Sunday, December 15, 2013

Woman of The Year. 1942

“Hepburn herself says she was wearing high heels at the first meeting with Tracy and producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and said "I'm afraid I'm a bit tall for you, Mr. Tracy". Mankiewicz then responded, "Don't worry, Kate, he'll cut you down to size.”

And cut her down to size he did with the help of the screenwriters and the director George Stevens. This was the first film that these two huge charismatic movie stars did together and they would continue their on screen relationship right up to Tracy and Hepburn’s last film together in 1967 the dismal “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.” This film also started the legend of the two of them having a long illicit love affair and if you want to believe this fable please do. I sure don’t especially with all of the books that have recently been published about them, but I’m not here to gossip. This is a very well written but sometimes offensive 1942 rom-com  movie  about two columnists  one oil the other water who write for the same New York City newspaper, Tracy on sports, and Hepburn on world politics. She is smart (she seems to speak every language of the world fluently) strong and independent. They meet after a small public quarrel and fall in love and soon get married. This is not going to work out, she’s a feminist who has her career and can’t or won’t give Tracy the attention that he wants, he’s a big bear of a baby who doesn’t care or want to give Hepburn her due as the important woman she is even going so far as not to attend the ceremony where she is receives an award as “woman of the year.”   The film is a pleasure to watch because of the acting and some of the screenplay is smart and witty but It’s also sexist and unpleasant at times.  Hepburn was never more feminine, sexy and beautiful than in this film, (her entrance is a classic), and she will never be allowed or allow herself to be this sexy again in her film career (oh sure there will be moments where her beauty will shine for moments, but never like this and its a shame because she was stunning. The film would have us believe that after a lifetime of being an independent strong woman, Hepburn realizes that she is nothing without a man, (this message is hammered home over and over in the film) and at the end of the movie she is ready and willing to give up her important career to take care of Tracy and become a housewife devoting all her waking hours to her hubby. This is a sour note and Stevens ends the film with a screwball kitchen scene  which is without any sense of reality. I don’t know what was going through Hepburn’s mind when she was making this movie, what this strong and independent woman who lived her entire life without a man was thinking, maybe she knew that this was all make believe fluff and besides she was getting good money for these fairy tales with happy endings. The film is light and fun, with some nasty edges with most of those nasty edges directed by Tracy towards Hepburn’s light in the loafers male secretary played by Dan Tobin who excelled at this kind of role, the safe sissy and is finally (off camera) beat up by Tracy as if this final humiliation of  Tobin’s character will make his troubled relationship with Hepburn all right. And what was going through Tracy’s mind I wonder who was leading a very closeted gay life himself while he was poking fun at a fellow traveler (if only in the film). Oops. I did say no gossip. Sorry. The clothes, décor and cinematography are all M.G.M. glorious and the screenplay by Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner Jr.  won the Oscar that year for best original screenplay.  Hepburn who was back from being box office poison got her own Oscar nomination with many more nominations and Oscars to follow, and the film was a big hit, #27 in box office receipts for the year running for a near record run of 6 weeks at Radio City Music Hall.  Also in the cast is the great William Bendix as a former prizefighter and the owner of the bar where the newspaper columnists hang out and the great Fay Bainter who plays Hepburn’s famous feminist aunt who also pines for marriage to make her complete.


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