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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Woman Of The Year" (1942) - Movie Review

Before I start my movie review for "Woman of the Year," I'd like to quickly mention a few things. The first is that I have entered a new blogathon. Participating in the Loving Lucy Blogathon was so much fun and also helped get the word out about my blog, so I decided to join another. This one is called the "Fashion in Film" Blogathon, hosted by The Hollywood Revue ( The blogathon will take place on September 24th and basically the idea is to discuss fashion in film. I'm not sure yet of what I'll blog about, but I've got time. I encourage other bloggers to join this too, because it looks like great fun.

Also, you may have noticed that my "Old Hollywood Bio" book has changed (see the sidebar). I know I promised everyone a review of "Not the Girl Next Door", but here's the thing - I lost it. The book, I mean. I wasn't very far and then somehow it got misplaced, and I can't find it. I hate when that happens! Anyway, I decided to finish "Desilu" instead. I want to write a book review of that and plan to do so soon, but I thought I'd give you all a break because you're probably tired of me babbling about Lucy (even though I could never get sick of it!). So, I've started "I Know Where I'm Going", and it looks great.

Last night I watched "Woman of the Year." I really love Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn films - they are one of my favorite screen pairings. Now that I've seen "Woman of the Year," I've viewed six of their total nine films and I plan to watch the other three eventually, too.

I'm sure most of you have already seen "Woman of the Year" and know what it's all about, but here's a brief summary, anyway.

Katharine Hepburn plays Tess Harding, a greatly respected wordly feminist who gives her views on politics in a column she runs in the newspaper. Spencer Tracy is Sam Craig, who is serious about baseball and writes the sports column. The two begin a war of words after Tess openly criticizes baseball over the radio, despite working for the same newspaper. When the two finally meet face to face, it's an instant attraction and all is forgiven. They fall in love, despite the fact that their personalities are quite different. They decided to get married but it is not long before Sam discovers he is living life as "Mr. Harding," playing second fiddle to Tess - The Woman of the Year. 

This film is certainly not the BEST of the Hepburn and Tracy set, but I still enjoyed myself. It is more of a romantic comedy then you would have expected. This is the first film the two ever made together and, I think, they fall in love on the set of this movie. (Apparently, when Joseph Mankiewicz introduced Katharine Hepburn to Spencer Tracy, she went, "I'm afraid I'm too tall for you, Mr. Tracy." Ha! I love Kate).

Anyway, I think Kate and Spencer's backstage rendezvous helped them on screen. In many ways, it's quite hard to understand what makes the two of them fall for each other so hard and all of a sudden. (Besides the fact that Sam seemed to have some sort of an infatuation with Tess's legs). I think it's the most obvious "love at first sight" scenario that I've ever seen.

Whatever they lose in back story, they make up in chemistry. They're all quite affectionate and cute with each other, which is nice ("That's nice," as Tess would whisper often), but makes it more of a romance than a comedy.

I really liked Kate's performance. Actually, I quite liked the character. If you're a male chauvinist you'd probably hate her - well, then you'd hate the whole film. I guess some people could call Tess Harding annoying, but I'll tell you why I liked her. It was 1942, and, maybe with the exception of Roz Russell's Hildy Johnson in "His Girl Friday", her character was most unusual. Think about it: besides the fact that she's a woman who writes a column about politics, men and women alike actually value her opinion on serious topics. The Sam Craig character pales next to her - his greatest priority is discussing last night's fights while Tess, a woman of the world, covers the war in Europe.

That's why I liked Tess Harding. And, I liked Kate's portrayal of her.

Then there is Spencer as Sam Craig. Really, Spencer Tracy is Sam Craig and Sam Craig is Spencer Tracy. He really fits his character. Sure, maybe a younger actor would have been more physically appropriate to be romancing Kate but I still think he did a good job. He quite falteringly plays second banana to Kate - to be fair, it's really Kate's film, though. That's why it's called "Woman of the Year."

I found some weaknesses in the plot. I was kind of upset with the way Sam and Tess just fall for each other without much explanation - but even though I can take that, it annoyed me when later in the film Sam becomes all of a sudden upset of Tess's successes. For God's sake, when they were dating he crumpled in her dinner parties of foreign tongued big wigs. He knew what an important person she was to begin with, so he obviously should have been prepared if he planned on marrying her. His only excuse, I guess, was he was blinded by love.

Still, it was enjoyable. I really enjoyed the ending. Even though this movie is quite light fare and you can probably predict the ending yourself, I'll give you a big spoiler alert right here:


My favorite scene was the last one in which Kate tries to cook breakfast for Spencer. She realizes she really wants to be with him and make him happy like the average retro housewife. So she sneaks into his house early in the morning (no, it's not as creepy as it sounds) and attempts to make him coffee and waffles. Attempts. Even when he walks in on her and rebuffs her for what she's trying to do, she determinedly continues on. She destroys the waffles, which rise from the iron in a bubbling concoction due to yeast, and the coffee comes exploding out of the peculator. It's a really a cute scene and gives Kate a chance to show off her comedic abilities. It is quite symbolic that Tess Harding may be the Woman of the Year, but she can't do a simple task like cook breakfast.

Kate's waffles

Finally, Sam gives in and takes Tess in his arms and says some meaningful lines: "I don't want to be married to Tess Harding any more than I want you to be just Mrs Sam Craig. Why can't you be Tess Harding Craig?" I think this is a telling compromise to the end the film. It's not stereotypical: give up your job to cook the breakfast and kiss me good bye in the morning and when I come back hang up my coat for me and tell me what you and the girls did all day. Instead, it is more of a symbol of some kind of an awkward equality between the two. The best of both worlds.  

Here's the trailer, because I couldn't find a video clip:

Over all, I enjoyed this movie because I enjoy Tracy and Hepburn, and I enjoy them together. Maybe I'm being a little generous, but I'll give it four out of five. Not the very BEST of their films, but being the first Hepburn/Tracy film, it's one everyone should try and see.


StanwyckFan said...

Gee Whiz. You're a good writer! :) I don't like Hepburn or Tracy, but this almost made me want to watch the movie...ALMOST. ;) I can't wait to read more of your reviews!

Rianna said...

Thank you so much! :) I love to write, so it's a great compliment to me. Haha, I'm glad it made you want to watch... ALMOST! I guess we all have actors we tend to avoid (for me, it's Richard Burton - I love Liz, but not so crazy about him.) Thanks so much for visiting and following me. I checked out your blog, too, and it's great. I'll be keeping up with it!

StanwyckFan said...

Have you ever heard of FilmClassics? It's a really great website with lots of classics that you can watch for free. Anyway, every 5 weeks they hold a classic movie review writing contest that any blogger can enter. I guess they can probably explain it better on the site here's a link:

I entered last 'season' and did pretty well. I thought you might be interested - hope you check it out!

Rianna said...

Yes, actually I have - I found it through the Loving Lucy Blogathon I recently participated in. But I didn't know they had MOVIES on their site! That's pretty awesome. As for the contest, it looks GREAT! I think I'm going to enter and see how I do. It may help bring some traffic to my blog, too. ;) And it sounds like fun. I saw you won second place - that's awesome! Thanks for sharing!! :)

StanwyckFan said...

You're welcome. I hope you do enter! It definitely brings traffic to your blog (it did to mine, anyway), and it is a ton of fun. :)

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