Reluctant scandal-mag reporter James Stewart and photographer Ruth Hussey are sent toinfiltrate and report on the upcoming marriage of New England aristocrat Katharine Hepburn.They are brought into the house by Hepburn’s first husband, Cary Grant. Sparks, friendly andnot, fly in all directions, and Hepburn’s relationships with the men in her life becomeincreasingly complex. She is also taught to have, as her father puts it, “an understandingheart.”
There’s an echo…of The Taming of the Shrew in Hepburn’s emotional comeuppance,and the gender politics of the film are, to put it mildly, complicated. None of this detracts,however, from the polish and wit of the screenplay, or from the performances, especiallyHepburn’s. This is the romantic comedy at its most intelligent, and puts to shame almostanything parading under that genre title today.
There are no fancy but dubious stereo remixes here. The sound is the original mono, and therecording is warm and clean. There is a bit of noise (this is a 1940 film, after all), but it is heldto a minimum, and there is very little distortion. All that sparkling dialogue comes through withexcellent clarity.
The picture is a bit weaker. Though sharp and largely free of grain, it is afflicted by a fairlyconstant flicker, which is more irritating in some shots than others. There is a bit of damage hereand there (guitar strings in once scene), and the black-and-white has just a faint tinge of purpleto it.
Historian Jeannine Basinger’s commentary is interesting and detailed, but she does sidestepa few of the film’s difficult issues (notably concerning the scene where Hepburn’s father justifiesphilandering). Disc 1 also has ten trailers of other movies by director George Cukor. Disc 2 hastwo documentaries: “Katharine Hepburn: All About Me — A Self-Portrait”, which, clumsy titleaside, is a substantial piece of work clocking in at 70 minutes; and the shorter (just under anhour) “The Men Who Made the Movies: George Cukor” (which features plenty of interviewswith the man himself). There are two different radio adaptation of the film (which began as astage play), from 1942 and 1947 respectively, and performed by the film’s cast. Wrapping thingsup are two shorts from 1940: the Robert Benchley “That Inferior Feeling” and the cartoon “TheHomeless Flea.” Disc 1’s menu has an animated and scored main screen.
Sharp, witty, complex. This is a prime example of the Hollywood studio system producing itsbest work.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- “Katharine Hepburn: All About Me — A Self-Portrait” Documentary
- “The Men Who Made the Movies: George Cukor” Documentary
- “That Inferior Feeling” Short Feature
- “The Homeless Flea” Cartoon
- 2 Radio Adaptations
- George Cukor Trailer Gallery