Thursday, 1 September 2011

Holy Jumping Jehosophat! (Woman Of The Year (1942)

It seems that I am posting so much Hepburn/Tracy at the moment! I think they just might happen to be my summer holiday obsession. Oh yes. There is always one each summer. We usually order a few great movies from Amazon (the only place you can get the slightly rarer ones) to last us the summer and last year they were mainly Ingrid Bergman ones, and this year came the Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy set *swoon*. It was the first film they ever made together, I actually think, though, that Woman Of The Year might be my favourite one so far! But I love them all :-)

Woman Of The Year (1942) directed by George Stevens written by Michael Kanin (with assistance from his brother, Garson)


Tess Harding is a well educated and strong minded columnist of political affairs for the same newspaper as Sam Craig, a quick witted and clever sports columnist. He first hears her on a radio show talking about how it seems like baseball is a waste of energy for American people. You know. Just running around in a square and that kind of thing. Enraged at her attitude to his favourite sport he starts a column fight against her, which she manages to fight back at just a well as he started. When they are called up to the editor's room to try and sort out the disagreement, they both know that there is an undeniable chemistry between the two of them.

Afterwards, Sam asks Tess if she's free to go and see a baseball game with him and after sifting through her busy schedule, they fix a date. Though initially perplexed by the game and it's rules, she gets the hang of it and even manages to make friends with the grumpy man behind her.

They meet another few times and he finally brings up the courage to ask her to marry him. Of course she says yes and they marry the very next day. At the wedding though, Sam gets his first taste of what it's like to be part of Tess's family. Tess's aunt and father both really like Sam and he likes them too, but they are both so busy that they have to run off somewhere straight after the ceremony :-(

Just as they are both getting ready for their wedding night - alone - a Eastern European politician friend of Tess, who has escaped from a concentration camp, enters their apartment with two body guards and a party of around 10 people. Naturally Sam is very upset (plus he can't speak Slovenian or whatever the language is) so he calls over his friends, but when one of them is told by Tess and Sam that it is their wedding night, she manages to take the whole group over to her place to party!

But this isn't the first awkward situation that Tess's work puts her in. Quite soon after the wedding they start to feel a strange new tension between them. When Tess asks Sam if he thinks it's because they need a child and tells him that it has already been done, he naturally thinks she is pregnant. But she walks in with a Greek refugee adopted child named Chris, who, of course doesn't speak any English (to Sam's delight... Not). And to top it all off, when she goes to accept The Woman Of The Year award she intends to leave Chris all alone for the evening in their apartment. But Sam insists that he will stay with Chris until he falls asleep. This aggravates Tess and she leaves without him. While she is at the ceremony, Sam packs up all his and Chris's clothes and takes him back to the refugee orphanage because he doesn't think that their home is right for him.

Sam feels low and unimportant and Tess is very upset about the way that Chris insulted her in Greek when she went to try and get him back and find Sam. But really, they both do love each other. Will they be able to get over their differences and get back together again?

The Verdict:

Woman Of The Year wasn't as light or fluffy as the other films I've seen Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in (Guess Who's Coming To Dinner doesn't count. For one thing it's much later and for another Katharine Hepburn is crying all the way through because she knows that Spencer Tracy is dying and it is simply too much to bear without crying like crazy yourself), but I think that might just be why I love it so much :-)

It is certainly the most romantic of the films of theirs I've seen, but it's still really funny. George Stevens is really pretty high up on my favourite ever directors list, you know. He, Billy Wilder, William Wyler, George Cukor and Alfred Hitchcock pretty much make up the list. Two of my very favourites have been directed by him, The Talk of The Town and Shane. This one was just as good as the aforementioned favourites.

Spencer Tracy really gets to show off his more dramatic side as well as his comedic one in Woman Of The Year. He's so funny in the scene where he accidentally walks onstage during one of Katharine Hepburn's speeches and she just says "Take a seat," because she is of course Kate the unflappable Hepburn. And he proceeds to spill his cigarettes all over the stage and get caught in women's fringe dresses. It is honestly so funny. Plus he does a little curtsy thing at the end when they all leave.

He was also heartbreaking in his scenes with Chris, their adopted Greek refugee. Especially when he has to take him back to the refugee centre :'-S.

You do have to accept the fact that the film is a little unfair to women for the first 3/4. The basic moral being that Tess shouldn't lead her complete jet-setting career fighting for equal rights and her beliefs. It seems through the last part of the film that she is going to have to give her career up fully to patch things up with Sam, but in the end, it's OK because we all realize that he is feeling shut out because of her importance. So they compromise and it works out fine. Do you really think that a Katharine Hepburn film would end with her character being degraded as a woman? Never! Part of the reason all her roles are so amazing is that they are really strong and independent women (just watch Adam's Rib, Pat and Mike and The Lion In Winter all in one go and you'll see what I mean).

Katharine Hepburn is amazing again. She takes the character of Tess and makes her a bit warmer than she might appear to be in the script alone. I think she does a completely fantastic job and completely equals Spencer Tracy's performance and more even sometimes. One of my favourite scenes is when she is hearing her Aunt and Father exchanging vows and she realizes that she didn't listen properly the first when she got married, and needs to go back to Sam. All this is done with her face and mainly eyes alone and no dialogue and you still get exactly what she's thinking.

{SPOILER! Because I am just so clever and chose the final scene as my favourite. I couldn't find the video anywhere so you just get my commentary :-D}

My absolute favourite scene though, is where Katharine Hepburn comes into Spencer Tracy's new apartment and starts to cook him breakfast while he is still asleep. She - as you can imagine - hasn't had much experience as a cook, so she just sets down a full pot of coffee on the stove and leaves it there for ages. In the process of lighting the stove, she manages to make crazily loud noises with the stove cover and set an alarm off. And Spencer Tracy sleeps through all of it. Wow. Once that's done she goes to find a recipe for waffles. But when she goes to get the ingredients from the fridge the fridge door blows the page of the recipe over, and gazing at it for the next ingredient (of course it's the wrong recipe) reaches for the yeast. She pours the mix into the waffle maker.

Finally Sam wakes up and after they have a mini face off.  He goes into the kitchen to watch her cook. In this space of about five minutes, she attempts to separate the whites and the yolks of three eggs using a sieve, the waffle inflates like a balloon, toast flies everywhere and the coffee pot explodes.

As soon as the film finished I said, "Mum... I really think I'd better start learning more recipes. I don't want to wind up putting yeast into my waffle mix. It wouldn't be so great!" I mean, I wouldn't want to be alone in a room with a breathing waffle mix. Would you?

I know that Katharine Hepburn was nominated for the Best Actress academy award and quite right, too, but I felt like Spencer Tracy deserved a nomination too, since he was so good.

The general consensus was that we loved the film and thought it was great. It just might have to go up there as the best film of theirs I've seen (possibly tied with Pat and Mike?).


P.S. We also get to hear Kate speaking Spanish.
P.P.S. And Russian.
P.P.P.S. And Greek.
P.P.P.P.S. And Italian.
P.P.P.P.P.S. And Slovenian

Now a real P.S. None of these photos are mine. By and large they were found on Tumblr and websites of the like. I am not crazy about linking back to Tumblr as the content can be unreliable, but if one of these photos belong to you and your blog is clean, then by all means comment a link and I'll post it :-)


MisplacedBoy said...

Hi! I just reviewed this one too and I came across your blog while looking for pictures. Good to see a young person who enjoys the classics.
Keep up the good work!

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. It makes me happy to see people are interested in my posts!