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 Woman of the Year

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If a brilliant comedy  Woman of the Year  this problem was depicted in grotesque but still educational form.

Here are some quote from Amazon reviews that highlight this value:

...Woman of the year is a light hearted romantic comedy, which examines the lives of professional couples and how it affects their private lives. As you can guess there is certain amount of drama in the midst of a love story. The beautiful, brilliant and independent journalist Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) and the macho sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) clash over whether athletic events should be suspended for the duration of the war. She insists that sports column be abolished during war, but Sam believes that it is essential for morale. The editor brings them together to make peace but the pair when they see each other for the first time, they fall in love! When they start dating, things don't go easy on them. When Sam takes her to a ball game, Tess like the game, but when Tess introduces Sam to her international friends, he is not too thrilled. Nonetheless, they marry, but he quickly discovers she is so busy with her profession and that she has no time for him. When she adopts a war orphan without discussing with him, he realizes a drastic step must be taken, because she has no idea of being a wife and mother.

There are some very funny scenes in the movie; one of my favorite is when Tess drives back to Sam's apartment while he is sleeping; she decides to prove herself as a wife and a good cook. Using a recipe book she prepares his breakfast, which awakens Sam, and he silently watches as everything goes wrong for Tess, she breakdown when coffeepot and waffle iron both overflow, and the kitchen get messy. Sam then embraces her and says he doesn't want to change her; he merely wants their marriage to come first. The ending is somewhat discomforting for modern day feminists as it sounds too anti-family to be an independent professional woman. After all, this movie was made for audience of the year 1942, and they wouldn't have a liked it any other way than a woman learns a lesson, finally, that she has to be a caring wife, and not just a professional journalist and a political activist.


...Script aside, the plot is interesting, and certainly quite radical for its time. However, the ending (a hilarious set-piece of comedy though it might be) leaves things largely unresolved. We have a wonderful, strong female character in Tess Harding--this is clear enough in the first half of the film. But her strength, her forceful personality and go-getting attitude, become her weakness in the second half, so much so that she becomes almost a caricature of the original Tess Harding. Some of the things she does (her 'humanitarian' wholesale adoption of Chris, for example; her rudeness and blithe ignorance of Sam's worth) are truly reprehensible, and the point the writers are making is clear--a female who tries too hard to be a male loses her feminity, and cannot ever really be fulfilled. In this sense, the gender politics, as other commenters have pointed out, is 'deplorable'.

And yet there is a grain of truth in it; if one *can* be brought to believe that Tess could really treat Chris and Sam in the way she does, one can't help but applaud Sam's decision to leave. The role reversal is almost complete--Sam himself comments on the fact that she 'makes love' to him to smooth over their quarrels. She charges on her own merry way without asking him about his life, his opinion, or anything that remotely matters to him. Their union was neither perfect, nor a marriage, as he justifiably charges.

The uneasy tension between the admirable and the deplorable Tess Hardings comes at the end: you most certainly get the impression that the film itself didn't quite know whether or not to affirm the Tess character. In fact, by all accounts (even Hepburn's own), the film originally ended with an unqualified affirmation of Tess's character--promising to be more involved in her husband's life, Tess is depicted at a baseball game, cheering alongside Sam, getting louder and louder and rising higher in her seat above him. It was both an affirmation of Tess the character, and a lingering question mark about the Harding-Craig reunion.

Test audiences didn't like it. (Apparently, it was the *women* who felt threatened by the character Hepburn portrayed on screen. She was too strong, too beautiful, too *everything* all at once.)
What transpired in the end, then, was a re-shot ending that muddied the moral of the film in suggesting that women could not really be fulfilled without their men. Sam wants her to be Tess Harding Craig; she wants to be Mrs. Craig; she wants to change; he thinks (and probably knows) she can't. The logical ending would have seen Tess, cast as she had been in the traditional masculine role, wooing Sam back, only to cast doubt over whether her atypical (for the time) strength as a female would unequivocally threaten the typical male figure as embodied in Tracy's character. The original ending would have better borne out the logic of the film--a valuable DVD extra if ever there was one. You can perhaps applaud the spirit of the film, without accepting the fact that it seems to let that spirit fade away in the end.

So what is there of worth in WOMAN OF THE YEAR, with its original ending gone, and its revolutionary potential muted by a slapstick scene in a kitchen with exploding waffles, too much coffee, and a woman who just can't seem to figure out how to separate eggs? Well, the answer is simple, and it's already been given. This is a movie to watch, and to watch *again*, because it is the first cinematic pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. For a couple of hours, you're allowed to watch these two great, mythical actors playing two people in love... while falling in love themselves. That is most certainly a rare privilege, if ever there was one.


...The basic premise of the movie is that you have a romantic comedy dealing with role reversal--the woman, Hepburn, is the successful one who's worried about her career, and the man, Spencer Tracy, is the second banana with the unimportant job. Both of them are reporters working for the same paper, but this movie doesn't have any of the snappy dialog you might see in a movie like "His Girl Friday."


...this plotline addresses the issue of the fate of the career professional woman which then was something of a novel and exceptional circumstance for stay-at-home-Mom America (although very shortly women would be “drafted” into the workforce in droves once the men are off to World War II but then they pushed back homeward again when the men came home for the “golden age” 1950s). That novel and exceptional idea of a woman trying to make a career in a man’s world in the 1940s and being very good at it rather than staying at home is today’s norm with women remaining single longer, or forever, forgoing marriage, foregoing children (or having them as a conscious single parent) and having a fruitful and socially useful life. In fact the whole plotline of this film today would have to revised, or be subject to some wicked humorous antics to get any notice.

Here is how things looked the 1940s though. Two professional writers, Tess the social commentator (played by Hepburn) and Sam the regular guy sportswriter (played by Tracy), work for a New York City newspaper (where else?) and by fair means or foul having had a dispute about the virtues of baseball, well, fell in love, yeah, got all misty-eyed over each other. Go figure, opposites attract, okay. And that is all well and good but deep down Sam is an old-fashioned guy who wants a wife who will cater to his needs, and bring forth children. Tess however is in the center of a whirlwind of important 1940s social and political events for which she will eventually receive an award as “woman of the year” and thus not inclined to pursue his dream for her.

So you can see the problem, love and all, since their schedules don’t coincide, their day to day concerns don’t coincide and Tess lets the secret out -- Sam’s work as a topnotch sportswriter is not important, not in the great scheme of things. Sam is put upon, is made to feel like a second-class citizen, is made to feel, well, like a woman then, and probably more than we want to admit now as well. Sam can’t take it anymore after a while and leaves. Of course in 1940s melodramatic time the resolution here revolves around Tess trying to be a good wife, a good housewife if you can believe that (and mercifully failing as even Sam can see). Yeah, today that story ending would certainly have to be updated. Oh, by the way, this film also shows in passing how two actors who are involved with each other off-stage (the beginning of the big Hepburn-Tracy affair) can go the extra mile in a performance to get that right dramatic effect like I noticed as well with Bacall and Bogart in To Have Or Have Not.

...Oh, no! Oh, no! My husband has been a grouch ever since we got married because I have gone on with my internationally-important work! I have not expressed much interest in his job reporting on men's ball games. Oh, gosh, I am not womanly because I do not give up my job and friends, or my concerns about a friend escaping from fascist Spain, to wrap my whole life around his. I am excluding him from my life because I speak French, German, Italian, Russian, Greek, and Chinese, as well as English, and he doesn't. I have been given a huge award as Woman of the Year, but ironically, I am not womanly at all, and therefore it is a hollow honor, and he doesn't come to the award ceremony because I don't really deserve it, or him. And he is leaving me because I don't pay enough attention to him. Because no matter what my gifts and abilities, the only thing really important about my life is whether or not I can get married, and hold on to my man, by making him the most important thing in the world. Even more important than me, or the world. Oh no, I've been wrong, I've been wrong! I'm crying now, I've been made to be womanly in my suffering, because of my shame. I must run to him now, and apologize to him for not being a womanly wife to him, and for making him unhappy. Oh, thank goodness, my step-mother has given me a book on the womanly arts, because it is really, really important that I learn to make coffee for my husband, because obviously my only function on earth is to make him the center of my life! Oh, gosh, I am so funny and silly when I try to cook, and I do everything wrong because despite being world famous, I am an inept person when it comes to the things that really matter. Sigh. If I were truly womanly, I would believe all this crap.


..."Woman of the Year" happily manages to avoid many of the pitfalls inherent in stories focused on sexual politics. While Tess' career is not endorsed as inherently fulfilling, typical gender roles aren't offered as the solution (however much Tess would like to believe they are). Indeed, the film asks for compromise and balance from its characters - in fact, no clear solution is reached by the film's end. It's up to the viewer to hope that they'll find one.


..."Woman of the Year" could have been a screwball comedy about the battle of the sexes. The themes are definitely there. Does a woman have to give up her professional life when married? Does she have to play the submissive role of "housewife" and "stand by her man"? Or can she be independent and have both, a carrear and family? And think they have Katherine Hepburn playing the role! One of Hollywood's leading feminist along with Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Mary Pickford (who showed amazing business savvy).

"Woman of the Year" starts off as Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) and Tess Harding (Katherine Hepburn) get into a debate about of all things; baseball. The two work for the same paper and Tess, in Sam's eyes, is one of those snobbish know-it-all's. Soon the two start an exchange of words in their colums.

And it's here the movie plays as a screwball comedy and works best. I love a scene where Sam takes Tess to her first baseball game and has some difficulty explaining the game to her. There is also a scene where Tess invites Sam to her room and the movie's last scene are my favorites. But, all of these scenes play up the comedy.


Newspaper columnist Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) is drawn into a good natured war of words with a co-worker over comments she made during a radio show. Although entertaining to readers, the printed jabs hurled between her and sportswriter Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) comes to an abrupt end when their boss makes it clear he wants his newspaper writers to maintain a united front to the public. During this announcement, the two writers meet for the first time and become smitten with one another. Although Tess and Sam seemingly have nothing in common, they grow closer and eventually marry. However, problems begin almost immediately as Tess is unable to comprehend the importance of being married and Sam becomes frustrated with her inability to keep her work life and home life separate. Tess, however, soon gains some valuable insight into her situation when she attends her father's wedding and soon Tess and Sam are reunited with a much better understanding of their relationship.


While the domesticity scene concluding the film seems out of place (the story goes that MGM added it to make Tracy the 'winner' of the 'battle of the sexes', to a much more chauvinistic 40s audience), so many scenes ring true that the film goes beyond simple comedy/drama to a timeless statement about commitment, priorities, and accountability for one's actions. And despite the serious issues raised, it makes you laugh, too! Hepburn's reactions at the ball game, and Tracy, trying to be inconspicuous at the women's club meeting, are among the comic highlights. The star duo are so natural together that it's hard to believe this was their first teaming, and the chemistry carried over into their private lives as well, beginning a romance that lasted 25 years.

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[May 29, 2016] Woman of the Year

He simply understands better than she does, at least until the end of the film, that maintaining a relationship and a marriage requires time, work, and attention. That may well be an unwelcome message, but it is not an unwise one.
Gary Imhoff ( from Washington, DC, 26 July 2003

Undated sexual politics

Most commentators on this movie miss the its point completely, and criticize what they misunderstand as the outdated sexual politics of the 1940's from the standpoint of the outdated sexual politics of the 1970's. Blinded by political correctness, they miss the many virtues of the sparkling script.

The point of the script is actually relatively modest. It is not, in fact it is far from, The Taming of the Shrew, or the subjugation of the independent woman. Tracy's character admires Hepburn's character's independence and competence, and he doesn't want her to renounce them to become the "little woman" -- that is the burden of his "kitchen speech" at the end. He simply understands better than she does, at least until the end of the film, that maintaining a relationship and a marriage requires time, work, and attention. That may well be an unwelcome message, but it is not an unwise one.

The comedy of the film comes from their characters' different worlds -- Tracy is a sportswriter and Hepburn an international politics columnist. The drama comes from their different levels of commitment to being a couple. The script delicately and for the most part successfully (with the possible exception of the Greek orphan subplot), balances these two conflicts and the comedy and drama.

Tim Kidner ( from Salisbury, United Kingdom, 9 April 2012

Sparkling Romantic Comedy.

This delight from director George Stevens was the first Tracy/Hepburn collaboration and as we all know by now, they fell in love.

That the film doesn't always portray them as a loving couple is down to their superb acting - they had to act as though they hated each other at times.

Back at the time, during WW2 (film was released in 1942) and with women having more and more general employment, due to the men having been conscripted, many could see possibly a situation where the woman wore the trousers, to coin an outdated expression. We have Ms Hepburn, running here and there - the film starts with press releases telling us that she is interviewing Winston Churchill - she is a very important and much in demand person.

Similar in a way to their later 'Adam's Rib', we have in the other corner, an everyday bloke, set in his ways and here he is someone who has a very male-dominated profession - that of a sports correspondent. Naturally, Tess (Hepburn) who's extremely intelligent and inquisitive, wants to know the ins and outs of baseball. She tries to enter and understand his world.

Naturally, this all causes slight havoc. She's always got her personal assistant hanging round her. She never knows which senior politician is going to phone her up - or when. Then, she is voted "Woman Of the Year". Her fiancé, Sam (Tracy) should be delighted. But isn't. The dreams he had of a normal, happy marriage slips further away from him....

The narrative flow IS a bit lumpy - there are scenes - the final kitchen scene is in real-time and we just let it unfold naturally - but that's what life - and love - is often about. I rather like the way it is broken up by changing tempos and situations, being more natural and as a result, the pair seem very real to us.

Some fans of the two actors believe that this is their best pairing, others think Adam's Rib is. I'm going to go for the second, myself, as it is slightly cleverer and the story is a touch stronger. Never-the- less, this is still extraordinarily good film-making and a fine movie.

I watched the DVD as part of the Tracy/Hepburn 4 disc boxset.

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