May 23-29, 2007

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This Week's Revivals

By Richard von Busack

Movie Times Little Women/Stage Door
(1933/1937) Katharine Hepburn had a success as the striving Jo; the rest of the cast includes Frances Dee as Meg, Joan Bennett as Amy and Edna May Oliver as Aunt March. BILLED WITH Stage Door. George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's comedy/drama about aspiring actresses sharing a boarding house. The film co-stars Hepburn, Eve Arden, Ginger Rogers, Ann Miller and a brilliant cat named Whitey (who earned $25 a day for his part). (Plays May 25-27 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Morning Glory/Quality Street
(1933/1937) Katharine Hepburn as a climbing actress who dubs herself "Eva Lovelace"; on her way up she finds herself diverted by an intellectual (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and a mature theatrical producer (Adolphe Menjou). The odd title is theatrical slang for a star who rises fast but is over with at a young age. Hepburn won the best actress Oscar but didn't attend the ceremony. BILLED WITH Quality Street. Speaking of titles, if the title sounds as high-pitched as a dog whistle, note that here Hepburn plays "Phoebe Throssel"—two separate birds!—a role that followed her "Pamela Thistlewaite" in A Woman Rebels. Hard times for this actress, and this hard-to-find comedy from her box-office poison days was her fourth failure in a row. It's a romance of an English woman in Napoleonic times who tries to land a man (Franchot Tone) by disguising herself as her niece. James M. Barrie did the play, George Stevens did the direction (Plays May 23-24 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre.)

Movie Times Woman of the Year/Song of Love
(1942/1947) "I knew from the first day of working with Spence ... that I had met my match—and then some." On the success of The Philadelphia Story, Katharine Hepburn arranged this vehicle for herself, bringing in her director George Stevens and co-starring for the first time with Spencer Tracy. Hepburn plays a political reporter who becomes involved with a sportswriter (Tracy); though the Oscar-winning script gives the pair plenty of parry and thrust, it's also marred by some creaky slapstick, with what critic Otis Ferguson called "one of the most embarrassing sequences of Mrs. Newlywed-in-Kitchen" ever. BILLED WITH Song of Love. Hepburn stars as Clara Schumann, wife of the composer (Paul Henreid) and a composer herself, as well as an intimate of Brahms (Robert Walker) and Liszt (Henry Daniell). Artur Rubinstein did the keyboards. The public stayed away in droves: some because they preferred "Beer Barrel Polka" and some because they believed Hepburn was soft on communism (the film was picketed by the American Legion). (Plays May 30-31 in Palo Alto at the Stanford Theatre)

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