MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Up 5,240 this week

Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

6.3
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.3/10 from 2,193 users  
Reviews: 35 user | 29 critic

Escaping to England from a French embezzlement charge, widower Henry Scarlett is accompanied by daughter Sylvia who, to avoid detection, "disguises" herself as a boy, "Sylvester." They are ... See full summary »

Director:

Writers:

(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
0Check in
0Share...

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 48 titles
created 10 Mar 2012
 
a list of 22 titles
created 01 Apr 2012
 
a list of 36 titles
created 04 Apr 2012
 
a list of 25 titles
created 18 Mar 2013
 
a list of 29 titles
created 2 months ago
 

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: Sylvia Scarlett (1935)

Sylvia Scarlett (1935) on IMDb 6.3/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Sylvia Scarlett.
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
...
Edit

Storyline

Escaping to England from a French embezzlement charge, widower Henry Scarlett is accompanied by daughter Sylvia who, to avoid detection, "disguises" herself as a boy, "Sylvester." They are joined by amiable con man Jimmy Monkley, then, after a brief career in crime, meet Maudie Tilt, a giddy, sexy Cockney housemaid who joins them in the new venture of entertaining at resort towns from a caravan. Through all this, amazingly no one recognizes that Sylvia is not a boy...until she meets handsome artist Michael Fane, and drama intrudes on the comedy. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

TV-PG | See all certifications »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

3 January 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sylvia Scarlett  »

Box Office

Budget:

$1,000,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Opening credits: To the adventurer, to all who stray from the beaten track, life is an extravaganza in which laughter and luck and love come in odd ways, unexpectedly-but they are none the less sweet for that. See more »

Quotes

Lily Levetsky: The little Pierrot boy! Were you a girl dressed as as a boy? Or are you a boy dressed as a girl?
Michael Fane: Sylvester is Sylvia.
Lily Levetsky: How charming!
See more »

Connections

Featured in Katharine Hepburn: All About Me (1993) See more »

Soundtracks

HELLO! HELLO! WHO'S YOUR LADY FRIEND?
(uncredited)
Music by Henry Fragson (as Harry Fragson)
Lyrics by Worton David and Bert Lee (1914)
Sung by Cary Grant and Edmund Gwenn
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
Paging W. Shakespeare!
28 August 2009 | by (New York NY) – See all my reviews

Not a great movie, or even a very successful one in conventional terms, but quite fascinating to watch. A lot of people are put off by the semi-deliberate artificiality of the acting and the fanciful nature of the story, at least up to the moment where Hepburn reveals herself as a woman to Aherne.

But I think this is the point. Cukor (and Hepburn) were striving for something a bit like A Midsummer Night's Dream (which Hollywood was filming around the same time). A bunch of con-artist misfits meet up and then find a spot for themselves as a sort of traveling commedia dell-arte stage act. They fetch up in an artists' colony in Cornwall, where they are presumably more accepted than elsewhere. A kind of 1930s Forest of Arden.

There, Sylvia's masquerade is not scandalous but amusing. And just as there's actual enchantment in Shakespeare's play, the manner in which Hepburn is revealed as a woman to Aherne (an artist, of course) suggests that on some level she wasn't just masquerading. She literally is transformed back from a boy to a girl, who has to be taught once again what a girl (they never say woman in the movie) behaves like. Instead of appearing threatening to conventional notions of gender, the film underlines Sylvia/Sylvester's vulnerability and innocence.

The gay angle is clear: The theater, and the world of artists, is where Hepburn and her companions (impecunious, emotionally unstable father; odd, flighty servant girl; amoral con artist) are accepted and not judged, where her masquerade isn't a crime but an artistic achievement. Sylvia Scarlett is an effort to make American audiences embrace and find the charm in ways of life it officially rejected.

The whole concept is pretty stagy, but of course Cukor and Hepburn both came from the theater.

But while it all must have looked doable good on paper, it doesn't really work on screen. The script undermines it, for one thing: the plot is full of holes and soon after the big scene with Aherne, the enchantment and strangeness start to drain out of the story, which turns into conventional girl-meets-boy. The only remaining question is whether Kate will find up with Cary or Brian, and that just doesn't hold much interest.

One reason for this is Cukor. He was a fine director of actors, and with a good script he could make a marvelous picture. But he wasn't a great visual artist, like Ford or Welles or Hawks, who could often take mediocre writing and make it sing on screen. This is the highest-concept film he ever made, except possibly Justine late in his career, and he doesn't really have the knack for it. The broad playing and semi-Shakespearean humor never really work the way they should, and Cukor can't seem to make Sylvia's father, the darker character in the whole thing, mesh with the rest.

I wonder if the story wouldn't have been more at home in the silent cinema, where there was more latitude for enchantment and masquerade and make-believe? How would FW Murnau (Sunrise) have handled this material, for example? Hepburn herself is at her best and most entertaining in her scenes as Sylvester. She's acrobatic and rambunctious and fun to watch. The other characters treat her as a sort of adorable boy, kind of like Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro. Very much in keeping with the deliberately theatrical atmosphere the movie tries for. Once Hepburn puts on a dress again, however, she tends to subside into that familiar Hepburn wonderfulness that can be annoying in some of her other films. The rest of the cast is just fine.

Could this have been a better movie? David Thomson suggests that another director and star (Hawks and Stanwyck, perhaps) could have made it work. Perhaps - but it would have been more conventional. I doubt that anyone else would have opted for the enchanted-forest, Midsummer Night's Dream approach that makes it so interesting. Again, I think it would have had a better chance in the silent era.

Too bad, however, that someone didn't try again!


3 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Beautiful Convincing Boy clanhar
I kept waiting for Hepburn to get with Cary Grant... kmevans09
TCM siddhaant_mohta
DVD?? willowtree602
Bunny Beatty ksf-2
Is that a cameo by... mapsnmad
Discuss Sylvia Scarlett (1935) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page