Woman of the Year (1942) Poster

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8/10
"Don't Worry, I'll Cut You Down to Size."
bkoganbing27 October 2005
Legend has it that Spencer Tracy said he would cut Katharine Hepburn down to size when upon meeting her in heels for the first time on the set of Woman of the Year.

I think that's what the authors of the screenplay Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner, Jr., had in mind in the script as well. As mismatched a pair if there ever were, he a down to earth sports columnist and she a world famous news reporter and commentator, fall in love.

As her celebrity is much wider known than his, Hepburn expects to have it all her own way. The rest of the film is concerned with their efforts to adjust to each other.

Katharine Hepburn's character is based on liberal radio commentator and reporter Dorothy Thompson. Not surprising that no one has mentioned that yet in all the reviews so far. The giveaway is Tracy first hearing her voice on the radio while in his favorite sports bar on Information Please where Thompson was a guest. Her career petered out after World War II, so she's not known to today's audience.

Writers Kanin and Lardner had as a model for the Tracy character Lardner's own father. Ring Lardner was one the celebrated sports writers of the first half of the 20th century, a great reporter and humorist. While Tracy is not as witty as Ring Lardner, he is definitely as down to earth.

My favorite scene is Spencer Tracy trying to feel comfortable at an international gathering at her place, looking even for people who speak English. Of course she's equally as uncomfortable at William Bendix's bar where Tracy likes to hang out.

Hepburn, comfortable in her celebrity, just sails through life, getting awards here and there. When she thinks of a Greek orphan kid she gets pressured into taking in as another award, that's when Tracy puts his foot down.

Based on some real celebrities, Tracy and Hepburn become those celebrities in the flesh. It's an awesome debut for what turned out to be a great screen team.

Look for fine performances by William Bendix, Fay Bainter, Minor Watson and Dan Tobin. Kanin and Lardner copped the film's only Oscar for an original screenplay. Hepburn was nominated for Best Actress, but lost to Greer Garson in Mrs. Miniver.

If Woman of the Year were remade today, the producers might consider making the woman the sports reporter. Seeing Jeannie Zelasko covering the World Series this year, I'm sure it would work very well.
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8/10
Wow
inframan14 May 2005
Right off I have to say that this is at once the funniest, most romantic, most intelligent & most realistic depiction of a romantic relationship I have ever seen.(For perspective, I'm a 60 year-old multi-lingual film buff).

Whatever kind of film George Stevens tried, he did it to perfection. Witness Gunga Din, Swingtime & A Place in the Sun to mention just a few. It was like watching something by Hawks, Lubitch & Sturges all rolled into one.

Hepburn never appeared softer, more vulnerable, less mannered than in Woman of the Year. I fall in love with her all over again every time I watch it, which is surprisingly often, especially in the scene where she carries on about Oswald Spengler while plastered under the table.

Then there's Tracy, the most honest actor who ever lived. But not just that: there was his ability to delve seemingly without effort into an infinite bag of gestures & expressions & tones & just plain old-fashioned but highly manifest wisdom & come up with the most richly nuanced guy ever depicted on-screen. Tracy was a giant, a genius, the Rembrandt of film.

A delightful, dazzlingly perfect grown-up movie.
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8/10
The sexual politics of role reversal...
gaityr2 June 2002
WOMAN OF THE YEAR stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn in their first film together, his Sam Craig matched with her Tess Harding; his subtle, underplaying acting style with her stylised, personality-driven performance. It's an acting tour de force, to be sure--the two of them make the best of (and often far surpass) a somewhat limited script and interesting but stiffly played-out plot. In fact, their chemistry in this film is palpable. When someone speaks of cinematic magic, of chemistry sparking off (if not engulfing) the screen, *this*--Tracy, Hepburn, Tracy and Hepburn--is what they are talking about, even back in the days of the Hays Code. It's all mostly chaste kisses and long eye contact, often carried out in semi-darkness, and yet the two main players establish a relationship more sexual and believable than so many of the relationships portrayed in films these days. (Take the tiny moment in the cab--not the drunk scene that everyone loves, but that moment when he says, "I've got to get something off my chest", and she mumbles, "I'm too heavy", and raises her head. When he gently pulls it back to where you feel it would always belong, you know that these actors are doing something incredible.)

This isn't to say that the film is without flaws. Far from it. The writing is clipped and most of the words on their own have little spark. (It takes Spencer Tracy's glowering eyes, or Katharine Hepburn's radiant smile, to add life to those words.) Even the relationship between Sam and Tess isn't set up in the most fluid of ways, leap-frogging from moment to moment, from scene to scene, without quite making the necessary connections--if you believe in Sam and Tess together (and I do), it's only because you can truly believe in Tracy and Hepburn together. The film occasionally feels like a play cobbled together from various scenes, until it hits its stride midway through the film (after Sam and Tess get married).

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.
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Memorable First Tracy-Hepburn Teaming!
Ben Burgraff (cariart)5 September 2003
Aside from the historical value of first teaming Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (she had wanted Tracy in the previous year's THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, but scheduling conflicts had prevented it), WOMAN OF THE YEAR holds its own as a bright, smart 'Odd Couple' romantic comedy/drama, with witty dialog, a rich, textured performance by the reliable Tracy, and Hepburn showing a sexiness that she rarely gets to project on film.

The scenario is simple; Beautiful, brilliant Claire Booth Luce-type journalist(Hepburn) and practical, salt-of-the-earth sportswriter (Tracy) clash over whether athletic events should be suspended for the duration of the war (she finds them too frivolous in such serious times, he believes them essential for morale). After she makes some insensitive comments on the radio, he criticizes her in his sports column. Despite the paper-selling feud that results, their editor brings them together to make peace...and the pair, seeing one another in person for the first time, fall in love! Despite their busy schedules, he takes her to a ball game (which she loves) and she introduces him to her international friends (which he doesn't). Nonetheless, they marry, but he quickly discovers she is so busy 'saving the world' that she can't make time for him...and then she 'adopts' a war orphan, without consulting him, or considering how little time for 'motherhood' she's willing to give. He realizes a drastic step must be taken, as she is clueless about what being a 'wife' and 'mother' means...

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.

WOMAN OF THE YEAR is, deservedly, a classic!
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classy, classic comedy
lolly-76 June 1999
this film sparkles like champagne. Okay the plot is flimsy, not to mention corny, but the magnetism and chemistry that goes on between Tracy and Hepburn is enough to keep you enthralled for hours. The dialogue is witty and snappy, and there are many hilarious moments not to be missed. It's lovely to see such an old fashioned fun movie that makes you laugh and cry at the same time. The most wonderful moment in the film has got to be when they kiss for the first time, it's wonderful, and you can feel the warmth between them.
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8/10
Seminal Tracy-Hepburn Vehicle Teeters Precariously Between Comedy and Melodrama
Ed Uyeshima30 October 2006
Katharine Hepburn already established the headstrong aspect of her screen persona in 1938's "Holiday" and 1940's "The Philadelphia Story", but she adds a worldly intellect and a beguiling sexual ardor that prove most fetching in her portrayal of multilingual political journalist Tess Harding in this 1942 film classic. In her first teaming with lifelong off-screen partner Spencer Tracy, she sets off palpable sparks with the normally taciturn actor, who plays sportswriter Sam Craig working at the same newspaper. Written by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin, the plot is about the characters' whirlwind courtship from an immediate sexual attraction to an impulsive marriage, all the while struggling with each other's priorities. Needless to say, given that it's a product of its era, it becomes a matter of time before Tess bends to Sam's will but not until some intriguing observations are made about sex roles in a basically fractious relationship.

However, rather than the comic fireworks generated by their later collaboration, 1949's "Adam's Rib", this film treads in unexpectedly sentimental melodrama, especially in the episodes where Tess has to let go of a Greek orphan she wants to adopt and in the climactic scene when she tearfully recognizes her wifely responsibilities as her aunt Ellen marries her father. Still, the pair's familiar bantering occurs when Sam explains the rules of baseball to Tess and in the final feminist reversal as she fails miserably in her attempt at domesticity. George Stevens directed the film, and he displays his sure hand with actors and an acute sense of craftsmanship throughout. Intriguingly, for a Tracy-Hepburn vehicle, it feels much more like her movie than his, and consequently their rapport is not quite up to their normal standard here. The supporting characters also feel more incidental here, even though Fay Bainter shines briefly as Ellen. It's not my favorite of their films together, but it is certainly required viewing for their fans. There are no extras with the 2000 DVD.
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Undated sexual politics
Gary Imhoff26 July 2003
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.
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8/10
Real fun.
Polaris_DiB30 December 2005
A lot of reviews on romantic comedies and the like talk about this thing called "chemistry" between actors, when it seems the two actors are capable of really presenting true, real life emotions between them. When it comes to the Spenser Tracy/Katherine Hepburn pairing, the word "chemistry" is used quite often. The thing about it is, though, that this stuff goes way beyond chemistry. This is real, honest-to-life drama.

Spenser Tracy's character is utterly relatable. He reacts and he does what it seems any guy of the era, or even today, would do in such a situation. His character is torn between his absolute adoration of Tess, and the knowledge that not only will he never amount to what Tess is, he also is pretty much emasculated by her self-actualization.

And for Katherine Hepburn, who plays Tess, there couldn't have been a better role. Hepburn, who was naturally independent anyway, plays the role of a knowledgeable Woman's Woman without needing an extra breath.

The thing about the films with these two are that they actually present a relationship, not just a courtship and a "and then they lived happily ever after, for all time" ending. They show the real issues with communication, work, space, and borders, everything that must be understood about a person to make it work. And they are absolutely adoring of each other.

Just like in the later film, Adam's Rib (1949), this film presents the issues and friction in their relationship almost spectacularly well from both sides. I can't say that this film was as good as Adam's Rib (George Steven's directing is just a tad off-balanced and the pacing is a little uneven), but at any rate it's a real joy to watch, from the beginning courting to the slapstick ending.

--PolarisDiB
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8/10
Opposites attract!
jotix1002 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
For all practical purposes, Sam Craig and Tess Harding could be regarded as people from different planets. He is a sports writer for a New York newspaper. Tess is the star reporter of international affairs for the same paper. She is the darling of a society that looks down on people like Sam because their way of looking at life. Sam, on the other hand, is a happy individual who loves his job and what's more, he is good at it. When these two different individuals meet, sparks begin to fly in all directions. Sam and Tess fall madly in love with one another. The trouble is that Tess is a woman in great demand and a busy schedule. Even their small wedding is marked with the pressing need to return of Tess to sort out the world's problems. Their first night together is a disaster! The main question is why did Tess bother to get married in the first place?

Best things in the film involve an awkward Tess, a highly intelligent woman that shows no common sense. When Sam takes her to a baseball game Tess decides to wear a hat that obstruct the view of everyone unfortunate enough to sit behind her. Also, the end of the movie is a gem by the way comedies are judged. It shows an eager Tess going over to Sam's apartment, where he has been living alone. She decides to surprise him with breakfast, but all her endeavors prove to be useless. How can the sophisticated woman who has probably never even made coffee in her life, expects to do waffles, eggs and coffee? Even using the latest appliances, Tess is defeated perhaps for the first time in her life!

Inspired direction by George Stevens, a genius in his own right. His legacy in the American cinema stands by itself. It helps that Mr. Stevens was working on the screenplay created by Ring Lardner and Michael Kanin, two men that clearly understood how to deliver a comedy that has shown its endurance as a favorite from those golden years of Hollywood.

This was the start of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn collaboration as a couple in the movies. Individually both these performers had a long tradition of excellence. As a pair, they are delightful to watch as the mismatched couple that love each other desperately, but can't achieve happiness due to Tess' own hectic agenda. Mr. Tracy and Ms. Hepburn do a wonderful dance for the pleasure of their fans.

Others in the incredible supporting cast include the great Fay Bainter, Minor Watson, Reginald Owen, William Bendix, and Dan Tobin, among others who do wonders to make this a fine time in the movies. Joseph Ruttenberg black and white photography gives us the best of all those marvelous sets created for the project. Franz Waxman provided the musical score. George Stevens kept things in control with a comedy that will live forever.
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7/10
Fireworks
mountainkath28 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I always find it amusing to read critiques of classic movies by people who judge them by today's standards. If one wants modern themes, stick to modern movies.

I adore classic movies because I love good stories (even if they aren't perfect and are predictable), classic actors (saying Spencer Tracy was a horrible actor just reveals one's ignorance) and also to see the settings (clothes, cars, etc.) of that era.

That said, I enjoyed Woman Of The Year, but I don't think it's a perfect (or even an excellent) movie. I will watch it again, mainly for the much talked about chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy.

Their romance (on screen and off) is legendary and this film shows us why. In the scene in the bar (just after Tess comes out from under the table) Tess says "Look, Sam". When Spencer Tracy says the line, "I'm looking", the way he says it makes it one of the sexiest things I've ever seen on screen (and I usually think Gable and Grant are the sexiest men on screen, not Tracy).

I thought the final scene in the kitchen was odd and much too long. It also seemed out of place with the rest of the film. I did like that Sam said he wanted Tess Harding Craig and not Mrs. Sam Craig, so that saved it (somewhat) for me.

All in all, this film is definitely worth seeing. Just be wary of people who proclaim it perfect.
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