“That girl’s a character!”… “I think she’s got something!”
David Fox: This exchange between a Broadway producer (Adolphe Menjou) and a besotted playwright (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) comes from the 1933 movie Morning Glory, and concerns a young actress who has christened herself with the stage name of “Eva Lovelace.” She is played by Katharine Hepburn, in what was only her third film, and would win her the first of four Academy Awards. It might as easily be about Hepburn herself, who is already so utterly distinctive and brashly confident a presence as to divide public opinion. (She’s also at her most visually arresting—those cheekbones, when we first glimpse her pale face under a brimmed cloche hat!) Watching this movie, she even divided mine—sometimes I find her absolutely captivating, making something real of a flighty and very strangely written character. At other times, I think she misfires, and I would not say that fey or innocent sincerity are qualities naturally in her wheelhouse. But whatever KH is or isn’t—she’s riveting… and I sort of fell in love with Morning Glory, a preposterous piece of theatrical kitsch. (I was a goner the instant a conversation comes up about Katharine Cornell starring in a new Ferenc Molnar play at the Lyceum.)
Cameron Kelsall: We are jumping all over the place in our survey of Hepburn’s screen performances, but in a way, I’m glad to come back to this very early endeavor after getting a sense of what came later. In a way, the positive and negative traits I’ve come to associate with her style are already on display, even at the age of 26. As Eva Lovelace—who, we sense, might be more gifted at selling herself than she is possessed of any actual talent—Hepburn is cocksure and funny one moment, vulnerable and moving the next. She is also self-indulgent—and, to use a word often applied to Hepburn, in ways that may or may not be complimentary, very iconoclastic. The film itself is an amusing trifle, but her performance, even with some ham-fisted moments, lifts it to another level…
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Categories: Criticism, Movies, PARTERRE BOX, Theater
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