Monday, September 26, 2005

Otis Ferguson

"Katharine Hepburn wouldn't win a screen-test for pretties, yet she has that rare quality of composing all the lines of her face and figure, sense and feeling, into a pattern that is seen and felt as a thing of beauty. And she has never before been able to condense into one performance so much of this almost outrageous challenge and appeal, deliberate affectation and genuine, delightful ease. She is set a little off-center by the writing and direction (she has to do four things at once instead of two; she has to speak ten languages like a native, which no girl with hair and nails like that to take care of would ever be able to spare the time for). But when she has her good scenes of being bright or tender or passionate or wicked, the hip (etc.) shakers of 1942 will have to shake plenty to come near her claim for the most seductive woman of the year."

Ferguson was less enthusiastic about the character, however. Although "the lady columnist has a convincing routine of being lovely, tender, and seductive for him [the sportswriter, the Tracy character] those rare times when he is ready to blow up.... [The film] starts to lose ground when the audience perceives that such a fine type of man would never go all the way down the line for such a uselessly preeminent bitch, and it leaves its doubt afterward how even patience and understanding could reform such an ingrained case of meddlesome tuft-hunting in one lifetime, let alone the last ten minutes...."

(Ferguson found the last scene "one of the most embarassing sequences of Mrs.-Newlywed-in-Kitchen since whatever was the worst of the Charley Chase shorts.")

Ferguson noted one of the essential appeals of the Hepburn-Tracy comedies: "....[I]t has some of the nicest wit in dialogue--lines right out of the free speech of those who can land on both feet talking, the natural in humor and sarcasm."

The New Republic, February 16, 1942
The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson, p. 414-15