This is going to be a little different. If this blog was on NBC in the 80s, we would call it a “very special episode” of Random Movie Reviews.
As you know, my sweet Mom passed away last month. My Mother had a large impact on my love for movies, because she loved them so much. This is odd for a person who was raised in a strict religious home where the movie house was seen as almost as sinful as the saloon. Mom really discovered movies in the 50s and early 60s when they started showing them on TV. Guess what other blessed event happened in the 50s that Mom loved? This guy.
I think we kind of discovered the movies together. Some of my fervent readers may be old enough to remember when local stations had afternoon movies hosted by local personalities. You don’t see that anymore. But I have very vivid memories of sitting in the living room with the TV on to an old movie, Mom would be buzzing around doing Mom stuff. When a movie got to a gushy romantic kiss or something, Mom would stop and gaze at the screen, enraptured. I would invariably decide to do something else. Yuk!
Mom and Dad would take me to the movies occasionally, mostly Disney movies. Over the years I got older and the movies in theaters got dirtier so Mom and Dad didn’t go at all. Even TV shows and the cleaned up TV versions of movies were too frank for Mom. Once cable came along though, they could still find stuff on some cable channels, especially Turner Classics. After Dad died and Mom moved out to the South to live next door to Iris, she discovered the wonderful world of DVDs. John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Doris Day & Rock Hudson, Tracy & Hepburn, all waiting for you anytime you want. No commercials either.
Anyway, out of curiosity, the other day I decided to count all my Mom’s DVDs. I counted over 600 movies, not counting TV shows (my sister KC bought her the whole set of I Love Lucy) or music DVDs. She also has some VHS tapes that I didn’t count. Soon, my sisters and I will be going through the house and seeing who wants what, and what will be donated or maybe sold. I thought that before this collection is broken up and sent to parts unknown that it should be honored with a very special edition of the Random Movie Review. I put the total number (622 to be exact) into Random.org to give me a random number between 1 and 622. Then I counted down from the top of the shelf.
This is the one I ended up with:
Woman of the Year
Spencer Tracy – Sam Craig
Katharine Hepburn – Tess Harding
Fay Bainter – Ellen Whitcomb
Reginald Owen – Clayton
Minor Watson – William J. Harding
William Bendix – ‘Pinkie’ Peters
Gladys Blake – Flo Peters
USA: 19 January 1942
1999 National Film Preservation Board (USA): National Film Registry
From 1942, this is the movie that started the professional and romantic relationship between Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn that lasted until his death in 1967. They made nine movies together, starting with this one and ending with Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967. They met on the set of this movie and they started an unconventional (especially for the time) relationship. They never married.
Tracy plays Sam Craig, a sportswriter for the (fictional) New York Chronicle. Hepburn is Tess Harding, an over the top intelligent political columnist for the same paper. One day Tess is on the radio and makes a remark that sports like baseball are a “waste of energy” when the world is at war. Sam takes offense at this remark and starts a feud with Tess in their respective columns. When the publisher of the paper calls them both in to patch things up, well, that’s when a little thing called “chemistry” takes over.
Soon, they’re in love and Sam pops the question, but their marriage is seemingly doomed from the start due to Sam’s trouble keeping up with Tess’ frenetic globetrotting career. Sam is a reasonably successful man who enjoys his job, but feels increasingly eclipsed by Tess. Can this marriage be saved? I’ll never tell.
Hepburn’s character must have been quite groundbreaking for the 40s. She’s a career woman and a leader in her field, not content to stay, as one of Sam’s co-workers says, “Clean and illiterate, like a canary.” Part of the humor comes at the expense of Sam, who ends up in situations where he and Tess are surrounded by her international friends and he’s the only one who speaks only English. Tess seems to speak every language on Earth fluently. She is voted, as the title suggests, woman of the year and at one point she gives a speech about women’s rights and the “feminist movement.” I didn’t even know they used the word “feminist” back then. Remember that this is only 22 years after women finally won the right to vote.
At least one of the jokes would be considered politically incorrect or even racist by today’s standards. We’ve talked about this before. It’s tough to do when you’re watching these old movies, but you have to keep things in context. Like I’ve said, our grandchildren will probably watch movies from today and think we were a bunch of Neanderthals.
One interesting historical note. The screenplay is co-written by Ring Larder, Jr. He’s kind of a hero to some of us aspiring writery types. He’s more famous for writing the original movie M*A*S*H, but he was also one of The Hollywood Ten who refused to testify before Congress during the Red Scare in the 50s. He actually did some prison time and was blacklisted because of it. People like him paid a high price for our freedoms, and that needs to be acknowledged.
The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:
The movie is well made and funny, but it didn’t move me as much as I thought it would. I’m giving it a…
Random Quote Whore Quote:
Woman of the Year is a discretional, pseudoviperine, utility of a movie! Spencer Tracy is reactionary!!!