Tuesday 8 May 2007

Morning Glory (1933) Lowell Sherman

After a successful career as a supporting actor, including films like The Garden of Eden which I saw this morning, Lowell Sherman became a director and while he never broke it big, certainly made a number of important films, not least this one, Katharine Hepburn's third film, the one that broke her as a serious actress and the one that won her Oscar number one of an eventual record breaking four.

Kate plays a young actress called Eva Lovelace from Vermont who plays second fiddle in the opening scene to Ethel Barrymore, Maude Adams, John Drew and Sarah Bernhardt, all portraits on the wall of a building in New York that she finds her way to in order to audition for a new play at the start of her rise to fame. Most of the people already there are far more established than Hepburn was at the time. She takes the elevator up with crusty old C Aubrey Smith, a genuine English actor; the agent doing the casting is Adolphe Menjou; and the playwright (named Joseph Sheridan but not that playwright Joseph Sheridan) is Douglas Fairbanks Jr, looking scarily like Bing Crosby. Maybe it's the casual poses or maybe it's just the pipe. There's also some cheap phony actress in furs, played by Geneva Mitchell, who serves as a great contrast to Kate's quiet honesty.

While Eva Lovelace is trying to find people who believe in her, it's pretty obvious that someone believed in Kate because the part must have been written for her. Eva is nobody at present but she's obviously going to be somebody, she rattles on like nobody's business and really doesn't inhabit the same world as everyone else. She walks her own headstrong but honest road just like Kate did, regardless of what anyone or everyone else thought and blithely insulting and/or upstaging everyone without ever having a clue she's doing it.

Katharine Hepburn is excellent, however much she really should have been, and it's not surprising that she won the Oscar. Adolphe Menjou was best in the precodes because however upstanding his character, he always had a hint of the dark side about him, not evil but corrupt or two faced. C Aubrey is as great as he always was, though he isn't as curmudgeonly for a change and that's where he was best. I've never paid too much attention to Douglas Fairbanks Jr before, because while he was a great swashbuckler, he was never a patch on his dad. Here however he has a very different part to play, something that would have fit Robert Montgomery or Ralph Bellamy. He plays it well, but keeps a little more in the background than I'd have liked. As to the film itself, it was notably melodramatic but played well. The Oscar was well won but the fact that it was the only one was fair too.

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