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A Woman Rebels (1936)

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The story revolves around Pamela, as a woman in late-1800's England who has no intention of marriage and wishes to be her own person. After a great deal of difficulty in finding a job, she ... See full summary »



(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: A Woman Rebels (1936)

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Complete credited cast:
Herbert Marshall ...
Thomas Lane
Elizabeth Allan ...
Doris Dudley ...
Young Flora
David Manners ...
Lieutenant Alan Craig Freeland
Lucile Watson ...
Lord Gerald Waring Gaythorne


The story revolves around Pamela, as a woman in late-1800's England who has no intention of marriage and wishes to be her own person. After a great deal of difficulty in finding a job, she finally lands a position at a "woman's" magazine, which covered topics such as sewing and cooking. After the editor takes sick, she moves the magazine into discussing issues of gender equality, child labor, medical care, and finding a job. She then finds herself as the unexpected leader of a movement. After an unexpected event, she is also faced with raising a child without a father, which people at that time thought was scandalous. Written by Taed Nelson <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She's glorious ...As a Woman In Arms! ...He's Magnificent As the Man She Adores.


Drama | History | Romance


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

6 November 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Portrait of a Rebel  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Film debut of Van Heflin. See more »


Miss Piper, the Governess: As women, the first thing of importance is to be content to be inferior to men, inferior in mental power in the same proportion that she is in physical strength. A really sensible woman feels her dependence. She's conscious of her inferiority and therefore grateful for her thought.
See more »


The Wedding March
(1843) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played at Flora's and Alan's wedding
See more »

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User Reviews

The Feminist Touch
22 May 2011 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

A WOMAN REBELS (RKO Radio, 1936), directed by Mark Sandrich, from the novel "Portrait of a Rebel" by Netta Syrett, offers Katharine Hepburn the type of role most suited for both her talents and personal interests, that of a feminist fighting for equal rights. Rather than a biography about early fighters of the feminist movements as Virginia Wolfe or Susan B. Anthony, A WOMAN REBELS takes a look at a fictional character named Pamela Thistlewaite.

The story, set in "England, the middle of the Victorian era," introduces Pamela Thistlewaite (Katharine Hepburn), and her younger sister, Flora (Elizabeth Allen), living in Gideon Gray estate with her widowed father, Judge Thistlewaite (Donald Crisp) and humble Aunt Betty Bumble (Lucile Watson). Tutored by their governess, Piper (Eily Malyon), Pamela, with her thirst for knowledge, questions authority to why "women are inferior to men." Because of her outspokenness towards her disciplinarian father ("If you are unjust as a father, you must be equally unjust as a judge"), Thistlewaite decides to have his daughters introduced to society where they are to meet young men as prospect husbands. During a gathering, Flora meets and falls in love with sailor, Captain Alan Craig Freeland (David Manners), whom she marries and settles to Italy. As for Pamela, she encounters Gerald Waring Gaythorne (Van Heflin) with whom she becomes interested. Meeting secretly in England at Madame Tussand and Sons Exhibition Wax Works, they eventually have an affair before Pamela learns too late that Gerald is married. Keeping her pregnancy a secret, Pamela, accompanied by Aunt Betty, takes time away visiting with Flora, also expecting a child. While at her residence, Pamela meets Alan's guest for the weekend, Thomas Lane (Herbert Marshall), with whom Pamela becomes good friends. When Flora later learns Alan has been killed in an explosion at sea, the shock causes her to lose both her child and life. Raising her daughter as Flora's child, Pamela returns to England where she breaks all barriers by seeking employment. She finally lands one at Ladies Weekly Companion where she submits articles to William C. White (Lionel Pape), her publisher. After meeting with a young woman (Molly Lamont) struggling through life with a baby and no husband, Pamela, who sees herself in this girl, takes a stand by writing articles on woman's suffrage titled "Shame of Civilization" to instant success. While Lane wants Pamela as his wife, she turns him down so not to have her past ruin his political career. Years later, as her "niece" grows to womanhood, young Flora (Doris Dudley) meets and falls in love with a young man part of Pamela's hidden past, later leading to a scandalous trial.

Considering the many novels and motion pictures bearing the theme of women birthing children out of wedlock and raising it as a child of another, A WOMAN REBELS offers nothing new in that regard, yet it's a wonder why it didn't prove successful at the box office. Weak scripting/ unsatisfactory conclusion, perhaps. Dreary underscoring, maybe. Time period? Not quite. Three years later, Bette Davis starred in THE OLD MAID (Warner Brothers, 1939) bearing a similar theme in same basic era, this time on American soil during and after the Civil War, resulting to something much better and highly effective. Hepburn, most noted for costume dramas as LITTLE WOMEN (1933) and THE LITTLE MINISTER (1934), was facing a career slump by this time, following previous failures as SYLVIA SCARLET (1935) and MARY OF Scotland (1936) to her name. While Hepburn's first mother role might or should have shown great promise, it only added insult to injury to being her third flop in a row.

Of the Hepburn flops, A WOMAN REBELS, one of her lesser known and discussed projects from the 1930s, is actually better to some extent, with honorable mention to Donald Crisp's forceful performance of a cold-hearted, stern father treating his children with indifference because they're females. David Manners, Hepburn's love interest in her screen debut of A BILL OF DIVORCMENT (1932), has little to do in his final movie role. For Van Heflin and Doris Dudley (who sometimes resembles Joan Fontaine), both in film debut performances, only Heflin, given the film's most memorable line, "Hatred can hold two people together more stronger than love," went on to become as a accomplished actor with Academy Award best supporting win to his name in the 1940s. According to Bob Dorian, former host of American Movie Classics, where A WOMAN REBELS aired regularly prior to 2000, Hepburn wore 22 different Walter Plunkett designed costumes covering the Victorian England era (1860s to 1890). Costumes may have been the fashion for Hepburn, but its authentic historical Victorian-era setting gives this another plus. While Hepburn was allowed to age through the process, the make-up department avoided the common overplay of white hair and extended wrinkles over a more natural approach. Herbert Marshall, who comes late into the story, makes a satisfactory suitor who claims, "These modern women are so weak." Elizabeth Allan's meek sister role, though small, equally balances that of Hepburn's forceful manner.

Once available on video cassette through Blackhawk Video in the 1980s and currently on DVD through the TCM Archive Collection, A WOMAN REBELS can be found whenever shown on Turner Classic Movies. (**1/2)

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