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Monday, June 07, 2021

Is It Is, Or Was It Not, True Love


 Tracy/Hepburn Meet in Woman of the Year



Permit me to rewrite Woman of the Year and submit an ending truer to reality than what MGM devised in 1941, reality I mean of a sort Hollywood routinely practiced in private (sometimes not even in private), while expecting us to Code-conform and buy their bromides. Bromide means “to soothe or placate,” but did Woman of the Year and ones like it really accomplish that? The ending was worked over, rewrote, reshot, left wanting still. Being a story of two people entirely mismatched, though physically attracted, it can only, by convention’s demand, resolve in marriage, which sets up the hopeless end. To treat that honestly would see the pair split, “Sam Craig” (Spencer Tracy) back to his sports desk, “Tess Harding” (Katharine Hepburn) carrying on with her column, both having enjoyed a two-to-three-month affair, if that, till fatigued enough to quit, a real life solution most with flexibility and resource would have chosen. Tracy and Hepburn had a “Great Love,” but did not marry: he already was, and she had no good reason to want that, having come from money and making enough on her own besides. A man merely slowed KH down, which was why she left a husband taken in youth curbside. Hepburn sort of lived with Tracy when both were in town, shacking up kept secret from a press, public, and his wife who built a wall of good works (treatment center for hearing-impaired children) to block any discussion of divorce, which he didn’t want anyway, being strong Catholic, and besides, there were two children, and he liked peaceful retreat home afforded. These were people ruled by what was good for me-me, as all of us are, but unlike a majority, they had cake and ate too, even as stress of being public figures saw furtive coupling tough to maintain, Tracy/Hepburn as an offscreen pair not public-known until 1970 when Garson Kanin wrote his tell-most book.





Sport scribe Sam is a regular Joe, like Spencer Tracy we knew, while Hepburn as Tess is the waiter upon comeuppance that must visit all Hepburn creations before a fade, salve to 1942 sensibility, kerosene to 2021 insistence that any old film to be good must also be “progressive.” One thing viewers likely recognized then, as we surely must now, is that Sam-Tess have little business together outside a friends-with-benefits arrangement, a couple or three nights per week to scratch an itch, and freedom to pursue separate activities otherwise. Was Tess really going to give up a career, fry eggs for Sam (once she learns how), be a good and dutiful wife? You know a final split will come soon after an end title, a happy ending of the moment, but not forever. How many in 1942, or now, believe Sam and Tess will stay together, or would even desire such a finish? Movie wraps are tricky because we all must approve them, or come close at least to consensus. Once novelty of Tess wears off, there’s feeling Sam will bolt, just as she would once reality of chucking fame and ongoing accomplishment sinks in. Face it, movies: Some couples just aren’t meant to be. Think Casablanca if Rick and Ilsa had stayed together. Would she live with him above the café, Sam the piano man, Carl, Sascha, constantly in and out, or banging on the door, another Major Strasser to replace the one Rick shot? Here’s the thing: I don’t want Tess being such a sap as to give it all up to tend house for Sam or anybody. First off, she could hire it done (single Tess has servants). Are they going to live off his sport-write income? As was often said sarcastic back in the 30’s, Yes They Will.





 

Sam/Tess should have ended up like offscreen Tracy/Hepburn. Together when it suited them, apart when work or other demands called. That often as not meant pleasure trips alone, or with other companionship. Tracy had a few catch-as-can girlfriends over the haul, Gene Tierney of his Plymouth Adventure one. Hepburn surely knew of that, or was told, but she too had fish to fry, though notable is her always being there when he needed her, willing to personal sacrifice on his behalf. So, theirs really was a Great Love Story, or at least a Pretty Darn Good One, even if not of a sort most might experience. Tracy/Hepburn as real-life couple is quite the thicket given so many readings applied to it (most reliable interpretation? I say James Curtis in his Spencer Tracy book). We “believe” love and commitment as presented on screens, are less indulgent of pairs who linked off it. Gossips were for dismantling star marriages soon as vows were taken, or else worked to expose whoever ate berries w/o clergy approve. Tracy/Hepburn were off speculative limits, at least in print, being investment that had to be protected, and woe betide any columnist who rocked the boat. Tracy being married, and often seen/photographed with family, made balls easier to juggle, Hepburn seeming not 
a settle-down type to help still speculative waters. Fact secret was kept beyond even his passing (in 1967) was a trick no two could manage today, but ask this … how much of a public would care what “stars” today were up to in private life?




There had been matings off screen before. With publicity enough behind them, a Gilbert/Garbo could be Antony/Cleopatra reborn. More importantly, their passion, if short-lived, would sustain a series of romances we’d watch on “real-thing” terms. Such was momentum studios longed for ... three, four (or more) profit-maker pics to feed off perception that co-stars were kissing in earnest, not just for camera sake. By the time Garbo signed off the relationship, it was time to move on anyway, for her and Metro
, if not for discarded Gilbert. Lots of Hollywood couples stayed together for pure pragmatic reason, this to do mostly with career or money. That others of us do not operate, or cohabitate, on that basis, may save wear-tear on emotions, so were stars to be envied or not? Even at peak of a Gold Era, I wonder how many would actually trade place with a Garbo, let alone Gilbert, especially for what fate awaited his Great Lover, but after all, Antony didn’t wind up so well for himself either. So how many smooch teams got together and stayed together? People assumed Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler were married (they were not), MacDonald and Eddy ripe for continuous pairing on screen, even as she happy-married Gene Raymond, and why didn’t William Powell and Myrna Loy hook? It was easier to discount Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on backstage terms; something about them together did not suggest “together,” maybe because their characters mostly quarreled or were comedic when not dancing. Gable and Lombard had their love and marriage, but made only picture together, too early (1932) to link reel with real. Bogart with Bacall was boffo to boxoffice, theirs an ideal for both personal and business. Was there another star couple that managed marriage and work so well? (Burton-Taylor to come perhaps, had they made more pictures people liked).




Tracy and Hepburn did a remarkable nine together, all the way to his end, none of the lot losing money, save Desk Set, result less of poor content than Cinemascope fatigue and television burrowing ever deeper. Hepburn had fails where not with Tracy, it guessed that audiences would not want her without him. Figures bore that out, at least during the 40’s, Dragon Seed a drag, Song of Love shedding a million. Undercurrent got by for curiosity to see Robert Taylor back from war service. What Hepburn had was instinct for rebranding herself for showman community that once wrote her off as poison to ticket-selling, The Philadelphia Story a spike she engineered, Woman of the Year done also at her instigation. You could credit Hepburn for the team-with-Tracy thing, for it was by most accounts her idea, and look what profits flowed from that. Mayer had reason to respect her judgment, and did. Impressive is fact she developed the Woman concept with writers, presented same to L.B., stood her ground for a (high) asking price, then took a commission as any sharp agent would. Had there been another actress at Metro to achieve a thing like this? Hepburn took command not just with smarts, but for comfort she came from, "background" as people used to call it (rare in her chosen rat-race), plus fact she stayed independent after buying ways out of pact with RKO in the 30’s. She made pictures afterward by choice, not obligation. Another thing that impresses me about Hepburn: She sent paychecks home to Dad, monies invested by him, an allowance posted regular to her. Now that must be unique among annals of stardom.





Hepburn kept useful boyfriends, girl-friends too. She had confidence born of privilege and a family always boosting her. How rare is that? Someone truly stable could, can, thrive in Hollywood, or any circumstance for that matter, this a best-of-any adjunct to talent. Hepburn was sure enough of herself to be pushy at times, being right while others should hush and pay heed, anecdotage suggesting she ran much of shows that used her. I like the story where she crashed Tracy’s Malaya set to do a then-and-there story conference for Adam’s Rib, all but sending hapless director Richard Thorpe for coffee and buns. I used not to like Hepburn much. Obviously, that has changed. Scoring The African Queen for herself gave rescue from decline most of contemporaries faced, Summertime a Euro postcard encore in spinster-who-finds-love mode, this one by the way unavailable on US Blu-Ray, and should be, though there is a lovely Japanese disc that plays all-region, full-frame it’s true, but can be zoomed for 1.66 or so effect. More that is unique about Hepburn: She did class projects right to 2003 curtain, no degrading horrors for this vet. There are interviews by the score on You Tube, she really talked in latter years. The one with Cavett (two parts) is a darb. KH walks in and takes over the whole job, a delight to watch and listen to.




Tracy could be truculent. They invited him to be a guest villain on Batman in 1966. He agreed to do it if the episode were titled The Death of Batman. Stuff Tracy did in perceived (by him) “old age” (only 67 when he died) was contemplative and Kramer-ish, that producer-director a heavy pall at times. Courthouses ... cleric collars again ... let’s call the whole thing off. And just once, how about the other guy (F. March maybe) reducing to jello one of Spence’s windy I’m-always-right-when-morally-outraged speeches. Not Tracy’s fault: it was writers made him come across like a tiresome Moses on the Mountain. I wish instead he had led a Navarone sort of mission like other as-old male stars occasionally did. Despite admittedly fragile health, ST seems to me a potential action star in maturity that we unfortunately never had (Bad Day At Black Rock predicted what might have been). He got a needed spike doing Woman of the Year, being a magnet to Hepburn and doing things on almost Gable terms, rather than standing behind in a Boom Town or Test Pilot where CG without contest got the girl. Not again would Tracy be so neutered, Hepburn the reason, his career the better for association with her. Woman of the Year was directed by George Stevens before he left comedy. Dialogue was smart and people grew to expect this of the co-starring pair. It was said their vehicles did better in the big towns (read sophisticated) than wider spaces. Adam’s Rib especially is very chic, Manhattan, cocktail-pouring, fun for "us" who made it and those in circles like "we" travel, mass viewership left w/ plain-spoke Spence to identify with and little else. Still, Adam’s Rib was funny, and clocked $3.9 million in worldwide rentals, this largely because Tracy made us-us welcome in his tent. Father of the Bride a following year made that manifest. Suppose anyone at Metro discussed Hepburn for Mrs. Banks before Joan Bennett was cast? And did Hepburn regret being left out of that hugely successful venture?





Hepburn officially let her Tracy cat out of the bag in 1985. This was two years after his widow, Louise, died. Hepburn in a meantime befriended the daughter, Susie. What with no family resistance, she could speak, and how she spoke. Hepburn was no star to withdraw in dotage, being ready and eager to review the life and career in print and in person, her calling shots of course, so let all comers adjust to that or find some other life to document. Hepburn had constructed a seeming most authentic persona. Was this the real her? I think she was less a vanguard feminist than someone used to getting her ways, always, and determined not to ever let it be otherwise. A friend of mine had a rare 16mm print of the Disney cartoon, Mother Goose Goes Hollywood, and somehow Hepburn learned of it, inviting him to come to the house and run the reel for herself and friends. Jerry told me she was exactly like the “Katharine Hepburn” of movies and legend, him in no way disappointed, even by her ingrained sense of entitlement (that’s me too, part-reason I’ve become such a fan). Here was KH persona, and who she really was as well, so take it or leave it. Jerry took it and liked it. She signed some stuff for him and was appreciative. Fun day for all. There are two documentaries Hepburn shepherded (yes, I suspect everyone else participating did so as sheep), one on Tracy, the other about her-her-her, and then there was a book, appropriately called Me. Then another book was her account of making The African Queen. Hepburn owned up often to being utterly selfish and self-absorbed throughout life. Points for her! We should all be so candid. Woman of the Year is had from Criterion, with plush extras, and there are Tracy-Hepburn Blu-Rays at Warner Archive (Without Love, Pat and Mike).

15 Comments:

Blogger RichardSchilling said...

First let me say today's column is not just a home run, but it is the run that won the world series. I loved it; such a great read.

I remember quite well Katharine Hepburn's post-Tracy renaissance; she was a very celebrated enigma: Multiple Barbara Walters interviews, the cover of Good Housekeeping, glossy coffee table books as well as the biographies. However in this new century, Hepburn's star has descended somewhat, her business acumen alone, which you wrote about, merits renewed attention.

After Hepburn's death there was talk of her niece working on a book of Hepburn's letters, but so far nothing came of it. ABC news correspondent Cynthia McFadden was Hepburn's good friend and executor of her will, I thought maybe a book would come from her, but she too has been quiet.

I have not seen any of her early 1930's
RKO films in many years. Alice Adams in particular was so praised, I wonder how it watchable it is today. TCM has been airing some films endlessly (ahem..North By Northwest) but Hepburn's films don't seem to be in heavy rotation.

I do wish Criterion or WarnerArchive would release a special edition of State Of The Union - now there is a prescient film many would find rather intriguing in 2021.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

Great post. Scotty Bowers' book FULL SERVICE (and the movie made from it) gives a look at the private lives of Hepburn, Tracy and many others that may or may not be true. It has always seemed silly to me that folks demand real life mirror reel life however increasingly we are seeing just that as folks model their lives off movies and, worse, TV shows. In the early days of television my mother asked, "Why can't you behave like the kids on TV?" I replied, "They are paid to act that way. Pay us and we will act that way." Unfortunately a lot of folks are acting that way today without being paid. We are paying a high price for it. I had one of those beautiful 16mm prints of MOTHER GOOSE GOES HOLLYWOOD. Probably came from the same source which I won't name but in the days before digital that man was a Godsend to all who trusted him. He never let us down.

8:36 AM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

I've never been able to get through even fifteen minutes of 'Alice Adams' - maybe I'll try again tonight - but I do enjoy the blu-ray of "Summertime" very much, and I'll have to watch that again soon too. Only this time around, with the zoom adjusted.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

My mother was a small-town housewife, and she knew the skinny on Spence & Kate from the get-go. I believe it was Curtin's bio that said the flyover state audiences didn't care for the Tracy-Hepburn movies because men didn't find her sexy and women didn't trust her. They were definitely on to something.

For me, it's always been hilarious that Hepburn is still considered some kind of feminist when her characters are often willing to give up her career in order to make scrambled eggs -- and, in real life, she'd clean up Tracy after he threw up on himself after yet another drinking spree because, you know, Spence! While I understand your appreciation of Hepburn, she's always left me cold.

12:41 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Recall a Barbara Walters interview where Hepburn opined that men and women shouldn't live together -- just drop in from next door when the mood struck. When Walters pressed on the Tracy relationship, Hepburn went on a tangent and said something like, "Notice how smoothly I changed the subject". Also recall Walters asking Lauren Bacall if she felt that, as she grew older, she was growing better. Bacall laughed in Walters's face, like a Warner Brothers gun moll.

Bacall, by the way, starred in a Broadway musical of "Woman of the Year", she playing a TV news star sparring with a satirical cartoonist (by a fantastic coincidence, Jane Pauley had married Garry Trudeau in real life). The play ended with couple accepting their relationship would always be difficult, illustrated by their cartoon avatars walking into the sunset and stopping to fight every few steps.

Hepburn would have been a mistake as the mother in "Father of the Bride". Tracy's put-upon Regular Joe is the odd man out; wife and daughter are proper and conventional and eager to observe every nicety. Hepburn wouldn't be cowed by caterers and certainly wouldn't put up with Elizabeth Taylor's adolescent moods. Interesting casting would have been the mother of the groom, a genuine upper-cruster looking askance as her prospective in-laws struggled with the rituals of class. Then her friction/chemistry with Spence could be REALLY interesting.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

Kevin K. is being a little uncharitable as to Ms. Hepburn being "some kind of feminist": for her time, Ms. Hepburn was very much a feminist progressive, having imbibed those values literally with her mother's milk. See Ms. Hepburn's bio on Wikipedia for more about her politically-active feminist mother, who took her child Katherine along with her on her protest campaigns for women's rights, here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katharine_Hepburn

As to "Father of the Bride": Hepburn's presence would have instantly transformed that into "Parents of The Bride" - no matter how much they labored to keep her in the background, she would have unbalanced the piece simply due to what the audience would have expected to see and hear from her. She would have shifted the focus away from Tracy, and for this movie, that would have been a mistake.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Marc J. Hampton said...

Love her book on the making of the African Queen. Here is perhaps greatest star of them all...talking about how to poop in the jungle.

I walk past her former home here in NYC almost every day...and just wish I could have sat in that living room and chatted with her.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

One of my top favorites is Hepburn's reply to THE GROUP THEATRE when invited to join at the start of her career (her family had money, "I want no part of the group dynamic which, by nature, is second rate." She was one tough person from the start. I'm with her 100% on the group dynamic.

1:51 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff considers WOMAN OF THE YEAR's ending, Garson Kanin's book, and a particular short that played with the feature:


Dear John:

Garson Kanin wrote his "Tracy & Hepburn" biography in 1970, but it was actually first published in 1971. This remains something of a shocking work; it was unexpected that an intimate friend of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn would write a "tell-all" book like this. On some level, I believe that Kanin sincerely intended for his book to be a heartfelt tribute to both performers -- and it's hardly a pandering, sensationalist tome -- but he did share a lot of secrets (admittedly, some were "open" secrets) about the couple and certainly told a number of personal anecdotes which must have violated numerous confidences. However affectionately written, this was indeed telling tales out of school. Yes, it became an immediate best-seller. It is said that Hepburn never again spoke to either Kanin or Ruth Gordon (Kanin's wife) after its publication.

I will admit to laughing out loud when I read Scott Eyman's wry comment about the couple: "More treacle has been spilled about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn than any couple since Abelard and Heloise..."

You're right, of course, about the weak ending of WOMAN OF THE YEAR, cobbled together by Stevens when the originally scripted ending didn't work in previews (does anyone know definitively the details of the ending in the Michael Kanin/Lardner script?). It doesn't work thematically or organically. It's a Hail Mary pass to try to satisfactorily come up with a happy conclusion that would somehow reasonably keep these two near polar opposites together. But here is... well, not an insight, exactly, but an observation. I have seen WOMAN screened at a couple of packed revival houses over the years. Each time, as the jury-rigged ending neared, I would almost grit my teeth. I just didn't want to again see Tess Harding humbled (and humiliated, really) by her inability to make breakfast -- a hackneyed, almost desperate idea at best.

But as the scene began, attentive audiences inevitably responded with titters and giggles; within a minute, the house would be filled with gales of laughter. I don't think the audience was laughing so much AT Tess, as some interpretations of the ending would have it. While the character was at last receiving some comeuppance for her arrogance and occasional insufferability, I believe the crowd was mostly responding to the visual jokes -- old, even a little shop-worn, but expertly devised and staged by that old Hal Roach alumnus Stevens and fairly well performed by Hepburn. Tracy's signature dead-pan response as he surreptitiously watches was perfect comic counterpoint (watch his eyes).

These gags were nothing new -- and probably played far better (and fresher) by veteran clowns in short comedies of the past -- but they remained sure-fire stuff here for audiences (and probably even today). And Kate and Spence are (perhaps unexpectedly) game for this, and they seem to understand how to play it.

The main MGM trade ad pictured here for WOMAN has an interesting detail. There's a little burst on the bottom left of the page proclaiming "Play the U.S. Treasury short, 'The New Spirit'!" There's also a little strip of text at the bottom of the "Introducing WOMAN OF THE YEAR To The Boys" trade ad: "Play 'The New Spirit,' U.S. Treasury Short -- It's 100% Entertainment!"

It would seem a patriotic move on the part of Metro to promote theatrical bookings for a government-backed-and-distributed short subject -- MGM had shorts of its own to sell, of course -- and I guess it was all the more unselfish of the studio (then expanding its own cartoon department) to tub-thump a Walt Disney-produced cartoon starring Donald Duck. Even if it was about the importance of doing your taxes.

Regards,
-- Griff

7:29 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Griff shares text of a letter K. Hepburn wrote to Spencer Tracy years after his death (Part One):


Dear John:

I occasionally receive e-mails from Shaun Usher's website, Letters of Note, a site devoted to reproducing interesting missives. Today, on the anniversary of Spencer Tracy's 1967 passing, the featured letter in the e-mail was one written to Tracy by Katharine Hepburn long after the actor's death.

What did you say? I can't hear you…

18 years after the death of Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn writes him a letter
Shaun Usher

Jun 10

On this day in 1967, Spencer Tracy, a Hollywood star nominated for nine ‘Best Actor’ Oscars during his illustrious career, two of which he won, died after suffering a heart attack at the home he shared with his partner, fellow multi-Oscar-winning actor Katharine Hepburn. Their 26-year romance was a complicated one, not least due to Tracy’s being married to another woman for the duration — a fact that resulted in the situation remaining private for much of their lives. Approximately 18 years after Tracy’s death, Hepburn wrote him a letter.

Hepburn can be seen reading that letter in the 1986 documentary, The Spencer Tracy Legacy, footage of which can be viewed on YouTube here. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8szArd5dIBE] The text below, which differs very slightly, is exactly as printed in Hepburn’s 1991 autobiography, Me: Stories of My Life. That version can also be found in the first Letters of Note book.

Dear Spence,

Who ever thought that I’d be writing you a letter. You died on the 10th of June in 1967. My golly, Spence, that’s eighteen years ago. That's a long time. Are you happy finally? Is it a nice long rest you’re having? Making up for all your tossing and turning in life. You know, I never believed you when you said that you just couldn’t get to sleep. I thought, Oh—come on—you sleep—if you didn't sleep you’d be dead. You'd be so worn out. Then remember that night when—oh, I don't know, you felt so disturbed. And I said, Well, go on in—go to bed. And I'll lie on the floor and talk you to sleep. I'll just talk and talk and you'll be so bored, you're bound to drift off.

Well, I went in and got an old pillow and Lobo the dog. I lay there watching you and stroking Old Dog. I was talking about you and the movie we’d just finished—Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—and my studio and your new tweed coat and the garden and all the nice sleep-making topics and cooking and dull gossip, but you never stopped tossing—to the right, to the left—shove the pillows—pull the covers—on and on and on. Finally—really finally—not just then—you quieted down. I waited a while—and then I crept out.

12:20 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Part Two of the Katharine Hepburn letter to Spencer Tracy from Griff:


You told me the truth, didn’t you? You really could not sleep.

And I used to wonder then—why? I still wonder. You took the pills. They were quite strong. I suppose you have to say that otherwise you would never have slept at all. Living wasn’t easy for you, was it?

What did you like to do? You loved sailing, especially in stormy weather. You loved polo. But then Will Rogers was killed in that airplane accident. And you never played polo again—never again. Tennis, golf, no, not really. You’d bat a few balls. Fair you were. I don’t think that you ever swang a golf club. Is “swang” a word? Swimming? Well, you didn’t like cold water. And walking? No, that didn’t suit you. That was one of those things where you could think at the same time—of this, of that, of what, Spence? What was it? Was it some specific life thing like Johnny being deaf, or being a Catholic and you felt a bad Catholic? No comfort, no comfort. I remember Father Ciklic telling you that you concentrated on all the bad and none of the good which your religion offered. It must have been something very fundamental and very ever-present.

And the incredible fact. There you were—really the greatest movie actor. I say this because I believe it and also I have heard many people of standing in your business say it. From Olivier to Lee Strasberg to David Lean. You name it. You could do it. And you could do it with that glorious simplicity and directness: you could just do it. You couldn’t enter your own life, but you could become someone else. You were a killer, a priest, a fisherman, a sportswriter, a judge, a newspaperman. You were it in an instant.

You hardly had to study. You learned the lines in no time. What a relief! You could be someone else for a while. You weren’t you—you were safe. You loved to laugh, didn’t you? You never missed those individual comics: Jimmy Durante, Phil Silvers, Fanny Brice, Frank McHugh, Mickey Rooney, Jack Benny, Burns and Allen, Smith and Dale, and your favorite, Bert Williams. Funny stories: you could tell them—and brilliantly. You could laugh at yourself. You enjoyed very much the friendship and admiration of people like the Kanins, Frank Sinatra, Bogie and Betty, George Cukor, Vic Fleming, Stanley Kramer, the Kennedys, Harry Truman, Lew Douglas. You were fun with them, you had fun with them, you felt safe with them.

But then back to life’s trials. Oh hell, take a drink—no-yes-maybe. Then stop taking the drink. You were great at that, Spence. You could just stop. How I respected you for that. Very unusual.

Well, you said on this subject: never safe until you’re seven feet underground. But why the escape hatch? Why was it always opened—to get away from the remarkable you?

What was it, Spence? I meant to ask you. Did you know what it was?

What did you say? I can’t hear you…


Regards,
-- Griff

12:21 PM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

I've always liked Katherine Hepburn, but there's the issue of her being Tracy's enabler.

10:23 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers the offscreen Tracy-Hepburn association:


Tracy and Hepburn were together for many years, but it was in some ways an illusory relationship. Tracy’s marriage meant that they could be close, but only so close. Appearances would always have to be preserved. They could never be open about what they felt for each other, could never make a display of it. Neither of them could ever be assured that the other would be there the next day or the day after that. Always there would be essential demands that he would have to gratify, apart from her. Yet his marriage may have been a saving grace to their relationship. That essential distance meant that they could never press each other unduly, as true husbands and wives invariably do. For her, who, as you say, was not a sort to settle down, the lack of a legal aspect to their being together meant that she would have the solace of thinking that, if need be, she could always leave with a minimum of complications. That, too, was an illusion. The real complications in any relationship are the emotional ones, however they are founded. Perhaps most importantly, his marriage allowed them to preserve the ideal of their being together. If there were ever strains or it seemed that it was unfulfilling, there was the impediment of that marriage to fall back on. They would have thought that, except for his marriage, they would have been so much more. As rich and rewarding as their companionship was, they had the sense that it would have been even more so, but for that. The golden glow of such an imaginary life suffused the one actually lived, without ever being put to the test. And so, day by day, they lived their lives well into the old age of one—old before his time, with an early death awaiting him—leaving her with memories that the passage of time would only burnish.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Filmfanman said...

It seems to me, all things being considered, that the Hepburn-Tracy association both on and off screen turned out well enough. Things would be better if everybody's associations turned out so well.

After looking at Hepburn's bio on Wikipedia and looking over a list of her films, I went to have another go at 'Alice Adams' the other night, when I noticed that I had a copy of 'Rooster Cogburn' as part of a John Wayne DVD set on the shelf, too; and having never seen that Katharine Hepburn Western before, I opted to watch it instead - and I liked it a lot, it being a fine example of a "late John Wayne comfort Western", and quite suitable in a PG kind of way for the whole family to watch together. But now that I come to think on it, it's pretty clear that the film was basically geared for and aimed at an older audience, so maybe I shouldn't wonder at the fact that I've not seen it before - I was yet a child when this one was in the theaters.
The movie gave me pretty much exactly what I expected to see going in, and I liked it all the more for doing so - some gruff clowning by Wayne, some snippy schoolmarming by Hepburn, and some great shots of beautiful scenery and people riding horses, along with occasional bursts of violence and action: there's a massacre of Union troops, a wagon load of nitro, a raft ride through the rapids,and even a Gatling gun.
Katharine Hepburn plays the same role she played in "The African Queen", pretty much, but the movie's none the worse for that. I now find it regrettable that she didn't do any other work with Wayne, especially back in the 1940s or 50s - a missed opportunity!
Her chemistry on-screen with Wayne seems genuine, and apparently they got along very well while filming. Although Hepburn played often and well with Tracy, she really was no slouch while working with other leading men - Bogart, Fonda, Wayne. A trouper through and through.

7:40 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Though there is no Summertime blu-ray, the version playing on Criterion Channel is as pretty as you could ask

10:24 AM  

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