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At a party for Bright Young Things, a "treasure hunt" for attractive yet virtuous people nets Sir Christopher Strong, M.P., and Lady Cynthia Darrington, dashing aviatrix. Their acquaintance is innocent at first; but after he sees her in a spectacular silver moth costume, virtue begins to wane. Against their wills, they are drawn into an affair whose consequences threaten Strong's happy marriage and both their careers. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Katharine Hepburn is a beautiful and accomplished aviatrix in "Christopher Strong," a 1933 film also starring Clive Owen and Billie Burke, and directed by Dorothy Arzner. Hepburn's role of Lady Cynthia is loosely based on Amelia Earhart, a young, ambitious career woman who is not interested in marriage and home but rather accomplishment. She's an early feminist, and the role is perfect for Hepburn, who with her androgynous looks and strong performances would go on to play many such roles in her very long career.
"Christopher Strong" is of interest because it's early Hepburn, has a feminist theme in the early '30s, and also because it's pre-Code. Arzner does a great job depicting the love affair of Hepburn and Owen and yet shows nothing, with a hand reaching up and checking the time on a small clock...then the light is turned off and plunges the room into darkness after the lovers exchange a few words.
The problem with the movie is that it's badly dated, a '30s melodrama with tremulous, "we must be honorable," pip-pip and all that rot dialogue. Owen tells everyone at a party that he will never be unfaithful to his wife, that it is a moral charge he holds high - and seconds later he meets Hepburn and you can tell he's already falling. Owen is an odd choice of a romantic partner - he's not exactly the man one would give up everything for.
A bigger problem is the performance of Billie Burke, a fine actress. She is extremely sympathetic as the suffering wife - so sympathetic, in fact, and Hepburn seems so callous about the whole thing for most of the film, that one sides with what I'm sure is the wrong person. Also, putting up with your husband's infidelity and not saying anything brings us right back into aggressive non-feminism.
I am forced to agree with one of the other comments - yes, it is directed by an important director, yes, it stars an important, legendary star, yes, it's early feminism, and yes, it's not that great a movie, rather, an artifact. Worth seeing? To catch Hepburn in that moth costume - absolutely.
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