Hepburn's Woman of Yesteryear
Tess (Katharine Hepburn - The Philadelphia Story) and Sam (Spencer Tracy - The Devil at 4 O'Clock) work for the same newspaper and don't know each other that is until Tess publicly criticises baseball which as a sports journalist Sam takes offence to. Soon a war of words breaks out between the two of them fought in the newspaper columns that is until they finally meet and instantly are attracted to each other. Despite Tess being a multi-lingual and well educated feminist and Sam being a slightly rough and ready sports fan their romance blossoms amazingly quickly and soon find themselves married. But with Tess so dedicated to her work Sam feels constantly neglected and things quickly come to a head when she says he has nothing important to say.
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made an impressive 9 movies together all of which it has to be said are enjoyable. But whilst some of their later movies together were better there is something about their first movie together "Woman of the Year" which makes it feel special and that something is warmth. Whilst both Hepburn and Tracy play characters the love of each other radiates from the screen so an embrace, a kiss, a lingering look speaks volumes and makes "Woman of the Year" so much more. And to be honest it's a good thing that the warmth is there as watching "Woman of the Year" now you can't but help notice the weaknesses and simplicity of a storyline which almost seems laughable as we have a feminist realising that she loves her man so much that she will give it all up. But despite this, despite the obvious weakness which now presents itself, the fact is "Woman of the Year" is still an enjoyable movie thanks to Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
I won't pretend that "Woman of the Year" features some fabulously original storyline because it doesn't and is all very simplistic and at times rushed. The set up is that having made her opinion known about Baseball being a waste of time Tess finds herself in a war of the words with sports journalist Sam who just happens to work at the same paper as her. Despite being like chalk and cheese they fall in love and before you know it they get married, well I did say it was rushed. Being rushed in the build up isn't necessary a bad thing as "Woman of the Year" is really about having got married the chalk and cheese persona's means that wedded bliss isn't bliss. From their honeymoon night where Tess's German friend arrives at their apartment through to arguments over children and her superior career it all revolves around Sam realising that he will forever be playing second fiddle to her career.
Now I have to say it is all very obvious as we watch one scene after another as Sam's patience is pushed to the limit be it something which Tess does, the snobbery of her personal assistant through to her adopting a Greek orphan with out his consent but it is amusing. You can't but help laugh at the way that Sam fights back by inviting his sporting friends around to the apartment and sort of plays a game of one-upmanship with the snobby PA. But you know where it will all end up as Sam has enough and that is when for me things go a bit wrong. It's still amusing with plenty of well crafted scenes but Tess basically goes from this career minded feminist to someone who as any loyal wife would do give it all up. That just doesn't work when watching "Woman of the Year" now and it weakens it slightly although back in the 40s when it was released I am sure that this was the perceived norm.
But whilst I have issues over the storyline watching "Woman of the Year" now, it is a movie with some great scenes. The scene where we meet Tess for the first time is stunning, and maybe this is wrong for me to say this, but as the camera pans up Katharine Hepburn's long slender leg to her sitting on a desk she looks absolutely stunning. In fact I would have to say that in "Woman of the Year" Katharine Hepburn is at her most beautiful. But there are other scenes, the comedy of Sam teaching Tess about baseball on their first date is priceless as is the scene where Tess tries to do a wifely thing and make him breakfast leading to the hilarious bubbling waffle maker scene.
What though makes "Woman of the Year" end up feeling so special is not that it is funny or some great story but it exudes warmth. In their first movie together the chemistry between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn jumps off of the screen from their initial meeting, through to the flirtatious playful romance through to the arguments, it is just brilliant. But it is the small scenes such as when Sam kisses Tess or she looks lovingly at him the depth of emotion and warmth is something you rarely see in a movie and it is that which makes this so much more than just a run of the mill romantic comedy. And whilst Gerald Howe is fun as Tess's annoying PA and Fay Baineter is lovely as Ellen Whitcomb everything works because of Hepburn and Tracy.
What this all boils down to is that whilst Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made funnier movies the warmth which flies from the screen in "Woman of the Year" makes it enjoyable. You can't but help feel the love which Tracy and Hepburn had for each other and every ounce of that comes through in their characters. And it is a good thing as whilst "Woman of the Year" is an entertaining movie it is also very obvious and watching it now you can't but help laugh at the inevitable outcome.