“WOMAN OF THE YEAR” ( 1942 )
9:15am ~ Sunday ~ Multiplex 1
An adult, not cutesie relationship.
The teaming of these two actors is gloriously sublime. This is not some cutesy rom~com. These are adults. This is a Man and a Woman meeting, falling in love and trying to work out the speed bumps along the way…namely Tess Harding’s ambition. Tess Harding and Sam Craig are played by, of course, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. This is not 1930’s Hepburn and Tracy. They’re 34 and 42 years old. Settling into maturity, kicking their career into another gear. They meet for the first time in their careers pretty much as equals. I accept, understand and respect these two in their first of nine pairings. But watching them on the big screen I finally could see it…feel it: the looks between them, their interaction and sexual chemistry.
The movie has a contemporary feel to me because of Hepburn. What probably was seen as subversive in Hepburn’s portrayal of a worldly, accomplished woman back in 1942 feels like a normal walk in the 21st-century park. Her character juggles world events like a woman juggling two toddlers. I guess what surprises me watching the film on such a large screen was how pretty Hepburn is in this. And flirty ( not coquettish ) in a straight~forward manner. She looks Tracy right in the eye, and he’s a bit of the non~plussed one. But when his back is against the wall look out. I see Tracy’s naturalness in acting. Nothing affected. He’s always in the moment.
Serious fissures dot the relationship even though these two care for each other. Honestly… Kate’s Tess could give in just a little. World events really could go on without her, but would it ever have to for a 1942 Cronkite or Murrow; the ‘little woman’ in their lives would just have to understand that events were bigger than they.
Three moments in “Woman of the Year” catch in my throat, even moreso seeing it on the big screen, and yeah…I’ve said “big screen” a lot in this blog post:
( * ) When Tess and Sam fight over leaving the little orphaned Greek boy ‘home alone’ for that award ceremony. They have their moment at the door that’s intense.
( * ) After Tess leaves the orphanage empty~handed, Cukor has her walk out onto the sidewalk into the night air wearing slacks, long camel hair coat popping her collar looking defeated and iconic
( * ) I love the scene between Hepburn and the great Fay Bainter just before Bainter’s Ellen Whitcomb marries Tess’ father. We see these two women of different generations, Ellen surely having been a suffragette. I just love the admiration and earnestness from Tess when she says “You’re my Woman of the Century.” I can’t help but think something about that speaks to Tess and Hepburn’s own feelings of the women’s shoulders she stood on to get where she is.
I’ve written more extensively about the film here. I had a grand time looking at the beginnings of one of classic films great teams with a crowd full of admirers. Tracy and Hepburn on the big screen, and yeah…they ARE larger than life.