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After spending fifteen years in an asylum, Hilary Fairfield escapes from the institution after regaining his sanity. He finds that things at home are different than when he left them. His wife has divorced him and is already planning her next marriage, and his daughter has grown up throughout the years and is planning to marry as well. Written by
Toward the end, when Sidney convinces her mother to leave, she reaches for her mother's coat, and someone off-camera hands it to her. The hands of the crew member are clearly visible. Correction: The maid hands Sidney her mother's coat. You can see the maid's apron when she steps into view. Several scenes earlier the maid told Gray she had the mother's bags packed. See more »
It's Christmas in England. World War I veteran John Barrymore (as Hilary Fairfield) has been committed to an asylum for 15 years, due to insanity brought on by "shell shock". The season has resulted in a blessing for Mr. Barrymore, who is on his way home for the holidays, after recovering his sanity. Meanwhile, wife Billie Burke (as Margaret "Meg" Fairfield) has fallen in love again, received a divorce, and is planning to re-marry. Barrymore's return throws the household into turmoil. Daughter Katharine Hepburn (as Sidney Fairfield), also planning to marry, begins to fear starting her own family, after learning Barrymore's madness is hereditary.
It's admittedly not intended as such, and consequently not exceptional; but, George Cukor's "A Bill of Divorcement" should be seen as a filmed stage play. The story is thought-provoking; it mixes madness, marriage, and war with duty, self-sacrifice, and religion. The characterizations are, today, "outdated" in style, substance, and storyline. Still, they are interesting in context. The three lead performances are significant: Barrymore's theatrical skills are clearly evident; his performance is most enjoyable (the war duty scene is a highlight). Additionally, Ms. Burke begins a welcome "second career" in sound films; and Ms. Hepburn begins a welcome "second career" in films. With less to do, steadfast supporting actress Elizabeth Patterson (as Hester Fairfield) definitely holds her own.
****** A Bill of Divorcement (1932) George Cukor ~ John Barrymore, Billie Burke, Katharine Hepburn
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