Monday, April 18, 2011

Classic Movie Marathon Day 3: Woman of the Year (1942)

Welcome to day three of the Classic Movie Marathon. Three movies down, nine to go. Up next is An American in Paris (1951).

Romantic comedies. They have become subject to a lot of hate, mainly because the lead female characters, usually played by Jennifer Aniston or Katherine Heigl, are really annoying and the endings are so cheesy and predictable. That led me to wonder how Woman of the Year, a seemingly formulaic romantic comedy, could be any better compared to the latest we have seen. Am I simply being too lenient towards classic films? Or were they really different back then? I'm going with the latter option. I really enjoyed this one, despite it's obvious predictability.

From what I've read, women weren't likely to outshine men in any way back in the 40's, but since the men were away at war, the women started to stick up for themselves. If I didn't know any better I would think that Woman of the Year is a highly feminist piece, as Tess Harding (Katherine Hepburn) is portrayed as a person so much better than her other half Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy). Tess is a highly opinionated, well-educated girl with an extreme knowledge of every language ever known to man and a reputation as one of the most influential women...she even gets the award for 'woman of the year'. She meets Sam, a man working at the same paper as her on a sports column, and falls in love and in a whirlwind decision decides to marry him. It seems that the idea that Tess has of marriage is a very different one to the real world. She's barely at home, and if she is at home she is more focused on her work, often forgetting about Sam. She may know how to be the woman of the year, but she doesn't quite know how to be a normal wife. Naturally, Sam feels neglected, even though his wife is one many would like to have.

This was the first pairing between the magical duo of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and I see why they continued making money out of this pair. If romantic comedies lack anything these days, it is true chemistry. The chemistry between Spencer and Kate? It is enough to make a whole film. The excellent script crackles beneath them, as they bounce insults, love and jokes off each other effortlessly. I loved Tracy's sarcastic tone and resentful persona which he used to great comical effect. Hepburn, I have to say, like her character, completely stole the show. Yeah, her character is kinda annoying because she knows everything, but it's so funny that she can't do everything. That is used in the funniest part of the movie, where we see the perfect lady finally coming apart. The final scene, a really long uninterrupted sequence of Tess trying to cook waffles, is hilarious. Especially when the waffles start breathing. It's worth seeing the movie for that scene alone.

The movie isn't the best comedy to come from the 40's, but it is certainly worthy. Many people may have problems with the way it tries to sell female power in the form of Tess Harding, and it makes no secret of the fact that it is a feminist piece of cinema through and through. Others may have trouble with the sudden dip into melodrama the film takes, forgetting that it's a comedy in a bid to try and tug the heartstrings (using a kid as bait is a strange move...I see why Life As We Know It took inspiration from that). Non-Hepburn fans will hate this film. Yes, it is a film that acquires to a certain taste, but anyone in the mood for a smart, lively romantic comedy should have their needs satisfied with Woman of the Year. It has a predictable end, but boy, is it a sweet one.

What I got:


  1. This actually sounds interesting, I do enjoy films with strong female characters so I might check this out.
    And I've never seen a film with Katherine Hepburn in before...

  2. You've never seen a Hepburn film before?! Well, I suggest you start with The Philadelphia Story. That is my personal favourite of hers.


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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