[Film Review] Woman of the Year (1942)

Woman of the Year poster.jpg

Title: Woman of the Year
Year: 1942
Country: USA
Language: English, French, Greek, German, Russian, Spanish
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Director: George Stevens
Screenwriters: Michael Kanin, Ring Lardner Jr.
Music: Franz Waxman
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg
Cast:
Spencer Tracy
Katharine Hepburn
Fay Bainter
Reginald Owen
Minor Watson
William Bendix
Gladys Blake
Dan Tobin
Ludwig Stössel
Roscoe Karns
Edith Evanson
Sara Haden
George Kezas
Rating: 6.6/10

Woman of the Year 1942.jpg

This is where it all starts, the first of nine film collaborations of Tracy and Hepburn, whose off-screen, extramarital romance would continue until Tracy’s death quarter a century later.

Naturally, one would not expect a 40s Hollywood studio rom-com to be progressively egalitarian on the front of gender politics, although George Stevens’ picture holds a grand promise by allowing Tess Harding (Hepburn), a polyglot, international affairs correspondent and Sam Craig (Tracy), her fellow fourth estate practitioner, a homespun sports journalist, falling for each other, which accentuates the rub, Sam’s consternation and frustration living under the shadow of Tess, who defies every possible definition of what an American wife traditionally means, especially after she is bestowed with the title as “America’s Outstanding Woman of the Year”, can Sam live up to the standard of the husband of “the Woman of the Year”?

No, this film is not a whirlwind screwball inundated by ceaseless banters and repartee, in lieu a standard meet-cute that jostles the funny bone when Tess and Sam fumble in their respective new territories which are the other’s turfs, opposite attracts, that is the axiom. But clearly, male chauvinism inexorably sneaks in when the plot makes Tess do many a gormless thing to irk Sam to a fault, not least by adopting a 6-year-old Greek refuge boy Charlie (Kezas) without giving Sam a heads-up, and finally suffixed with a reshoot ending that compromises the movie’s initial liberal-minded stance, not every woman is a natural to the kitchen chores, if that simple fact can be construed as a laughing matter constructed with painstaking lengths, the movie forsooth has trouble to find empathy in today’s audience.

Be that as it may, Hepburn is Oscar-nominated for her quintessential capacity of turning on the waterworks and ignites some magical chemistry with an avuncular if somewhat grumpy Tracy, who in the final scene, leaves Tess’s scene-stealing secretary Gerald (Dan Tobin) at the receiving end of his petty protest, if that is not thinly-veiled male chauvinism, why on earth a man who is simply very good at doing his job (as a woman’s secretary) deserves to be in the butt of the joke?

referential entries: Stevens’ PENNY SERENADE (1941, 7.0/10); Stanley Kramer’s GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967, 7.6/10).

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