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Until ironically both stars of The Iron Petticoat died within a month
of each other in 2003, this film may have had until June 29 of that
year of holding the record for having its two co-stars survive the
longest. That was the day Katharine Hepburn died and Bob Hope died on
July 27 and between them they had 196 years on earth. That's the only
distinction The Iron Petticoat has.
Ben Hecht got on Bob Hope's case for allowing his gag writers to intrude in on his screenplay and story. Personally I can't believe they could have loused it up as bad as what his idea originally was. Katharine Hepburn is a female Russian jet ace who defects from the Soviet Union, not because of any disagreement with Communism, but because she was passed over for promotion in the Russian Air Force.
But the Americans still think they can convert her for propaganda purposes and who do they assign to the task? Not real life American air war hero James Stewart, but Bob Hope who plays the jet pilot who forced Kate's jet down. Who here really believes Bob Hope as a war hero pilot?
It's obvious Hope did interfere and it probably cost Hepburn some of her scenes, but the premise was so ridiculous I can understand why he thought the film needed help. As for Hepburn she throws on an accent that might be described as Maria Ouspenskaya on crystal meth.
Even such fine players as James Robertson Justice as the KGB man assigned to kidnap Hepburn back are wasted here.
The Iron Petticoat was a terrible idea made even worse in the execution. No wonder it's never shown in revivals of either Hope or Hepburn.
This film had the potential to be much better. The charm and talent of
Hepburn and Hope, the conflict of attitudes between East/West,
Democracy/Communism, male/female. However, none of these elements work
quite as well as they might have done.
Despite being rather over the top at the start, Hepburn is very good sporadically (the Russian accents and characters in general are stereotypical caricatures). Her androgynous persona is well cast, although used rather crudely at times - the film has a nervously defencive and jokey treatment of burgeoning feminist ideas, probably typical of the era.
Unfortunately, Hepburn's character is often relegated to be the foil for Hope's one liners. These are sometimes funny, but tend to predominate over characterisation, narrative, and the film in general, giving the whole piece an oddly disjointed, flat feel.
With a more pacey and intelligent script, the likable charm of Hope and the feisty emotion of Hepburn could have made a quirky, witty film. Instead, this rather dated film remains an interesting, although sometimes uncomfortable watch, as a snapshot of attitudes in the 1950s, and the unusual pairing of these two stars.
What was Hepburn thinking? This is a really poor film that goes nowhere
and feels like it takes a long time doing it. Bob Hope relies, as ever,
on the knowing side-glances but hasn't anything funny to say to justify
them, whilst Hepburn spends the whole film doing a dreadful Russian
accent to no purpose other than to annoy. It's a clumsy, stereotyped
and frankly disturbing film that says much about the paranoia of the
times. For the film's publicity to rave about the chemistry between
Hepburn and Hope is laughable....their only chemistry is of the kind
that brews sleeping potions.
Is there anything to salvage 87 minutes that feels like 200? Absolutely, the great Richard Wattis makes an appearance just as you are reaching for the remote. It's only a brief moment as he tries to sell sexy under-ware to Hepburn, but it's an oasis worth waiting for.
Bottom line....dreadful nonsense that never raises a smile
(5/17/2006) 5 days ago would have been Katharine Hepburn's 99th
birthday. 5 years ago on her birthday,I found out how old she was and
realized I had seen less than 10 of her films. So,I set out to actually
see every Hepburn film she ever made,including TV movies.
Iron Petticoat turned out to be the most difficult one to get. As others have stated,it's very obscure,only on DVD in other countries/regions. It may have never even been on TV here as far as any of us know.
Well,on April 25th I waged a bidding war on Ebay to acquire an American VHS copy of this. I was nearly out-bidded but won in the end. (I wont say how much I paid!) Anyhow,it arrived today and I took it straight from my mailbox to the VCR.
Here's a fresh opinion:I'd say first off,that the opening music in the credits is annoying,so turn down your TV at this point.
The film itself overall? It's just so-so and very standard fare as far as a Hollywood "male meets female" film goes. In fact it "goes" just a little too fast for the two leads falling for each other. Hope's character Chuck Lockwood is supposed to have a steady girlfriend in London named Connie but doesn't seem too devastated at losing her for Hepburn.
The funniest exchange between Chuck and Vinka:
Vinka:What's the fastest you've ever flown?
Chuck: 500 miles an hour!
Vinka: I have flown 750!
Chuck: With or without a plane?! Quite funny.
When Hepburn appears on screen at first,she comes off a little stoic (unless she's just trying to be so to the American officers in her wake).
She really seems to be a Russian/Communist stereotype but as the film goes along her character at least becomes a lot more fun to watch.
Especially when she goes with Chuck to The Russian Bear Room restaurant and tries to do a fast Russian dance to a slow song! There's also when she buys black leingerie and the clerk shows her a 1950s version of a push up bra,which he inflates by blowing it up.
She asks,"It is for swimming?" That was actually funny but a lot of her lines aren't. It's her "actions" in the playing of her character that are the funniest.
It's too bad her lines weren't better because,in her films with Spencer Tracy she has great comic flair and great sarcasm. Bob Hope seems to get what few laughs there are to be had but also he misses chances at finding more. A Russian man starts a fight to detain Hope while his comrades attempt to kidnap Vinka.
He calls Chuck/Hope a "Dog nose" and Hope snarls,"Oh got a little (Bing)Crosby blood in ya huh?" Very funny line.
When he's later captured by the Russians he talks the two men guarding him into joining up on the American side in the army. This could have been very funny too. Hope swears them into the military with a phony oath,ending in (paraphrase) "I now pronounce you American soldiers". I was "so" waiting for him to say,"You may kiss the guard" or something!
Near the end,Vinka is going to be flown back to Russia to be executed and the pilot has to get off the plane for engineering trouble,he asks Hope where he can find the office. "Go that way to the Main Entrance (of the) Navigators office (again paraphrase) and it's abbreviated on the door M.E.N." In other words the pilot's been sent to the bathroom. Most of Hope's one-liners are flat though and I either rolled my eyes or smirked at some of them.
The rest of the supporting cast really are just walking through this,they're credible enough but not to where they boost the pace or tone of the film. The Russian accents don't help either (made me wish it had come with closed captioning) but at least the actors playing Russians are a little more animated than those playing Americans.
As with most of Hope's comedies,it all works out in the end (wont say how) but that seems somewhat contrived as well. As for Hepburn,she really is the brightest spot in the film with Hope in second place. Despite all these things against it,it is watchable and somewhat humorous but it's no,"They Got Me Covered" or "Adam's Rib" caliber of comedy.
Footnote:In the attempted kidnapping scene,Chuck's now ex-girlfriend gets taken out the window of the ladies lounge mistakenly by the Soviets. It "seems" we don't find out what's happened to her and this might be a continuance goof,but the head Soviet on the phone in a later scene reveals that he's apologizing for the internatonal incident. I almost didn't catch that!
This film was in production 50 years ago this year and hit theatres in Jan. of 1957 by the way.
Anyway,happy belated birthday Miss Hepburn,my 8 star rating is strictly for your performance, and ....you are missed very much on the big screen. (END)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you're looking for a title that shows off Katy Hepburn's talents, this should be at the bottom of the list. For MGM in the 1950's, it was easier and cheaper to rework an old script rather than write new material. Such was the case with this reworking of "Ninotchka" originally a vehicle for Greta Garbo. In this instance, Dore Schary, in trying to save money and put up a "big star" convinced Hepburn to take the part. To say her Russian accent is a cross between New England slang and bad British is to be kind. Hope was so dismayed over Ben Hecht's script, that he and producer Harry Saltzman conspired with outside writers to give Hope "ad libs" to punch up his part. This so infuriated Hecht that he went to Schary and demanded his name be taken off the project (which Schary did not allow). Slated to make its network premier this month on Turner Movie Classics I would encourage fans of Hepburn patience in watching this debacle between British director Ralph Thomas and two "prima-donna" stars who departed this film never speaking to one another again. An absolute turkey and not recommended except for the most die hard Hope fans who like his ab lib humor.
I was born too late to appreciate Bob Hope, since his talent showed
mostly in presenting and stand-up. He has mostly left behind a
less-than-stellar movie career, as evidenced by his highest rated movie
(in IMDb) being The Muppet Movie, and even that's not nearly high
enough to be in the Top 250. I enjoyed his Fancy Pants, but I have to
say that was largely due to the presence of Lucille Ball.
I am, however, a mad fan of Katharine Hepburn and eagerly devour all of her movies. But great as she is, she still has some clunkers in her repertoire, and unfortunately this is one of them.
Egads, the Russian accent. I think that once she realized how bad it sounded (not for lack of trying), she just went all out to ham up the performance. There's chemistry between the two legends that are Hepburn and Hope, but the script lets them down, and the lines mostly fall flat. It doesn't even venture into camp, in which the movie's worth a watch just because you want to see Hepburn play Chinese (Dragon Seed) or a mountain girl (Spitfire). I would pretty much only recommend this for die-hard Hope or Hepburn enthusiasts (like me).
Saw this movie for the first and I hope the last time today. It was presented on TCM movie channel for the first time in 40 years, so we were told. It was hidden in England all these years. And no wonder. This has got to be the worst film ever Kate. Her accent of a Russian was terrible. Bob,s performance was his normal stupidity. And using classic English actors as Russians does not help the film. The story line has been used many times in films. Some with success. It just does not work in this one. Maybe they made the film just for the money. It,s missing the artistic talent that is available with these stars. This is truly a "bomb".
Bland cold war comedy was a rare British effort for Hope who was teamed for the first (and last) time with Hepburn. Hope was coming off his best film ever (THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS) so he was in his prime as an actor, but poor dialogue and little happening on screen gave him and his co-star little to do except react to each other. These two pros acted very well together but too fews laughs and no big ones (I begged for even the lamest of pratfalls) made for a murky and unrewarding effort. For die-hard fans of the stars only.
I wouldn't know how to describe either of the lead performances in "The
Petticoat". Supposedly the unofficial remake of the 1939 Greta Garbo
"Ninotchka", it was either something intended to be confusingly bizarre or
not up to standard remake of a great Hollywood movie.
This was the fifteenth Katharine Hepburn movie I have seen, and the first of Bob Hope's. I cannot judge Hope's performance, but I have to admit this was one of Hepburn's movies which did disappoint partially. It has been some time since I viewed the movie but I don't think her Russian accent was convincing. Generally, the supporting cast was rather forgettable, and the film contained many aspects previously unknown to me of any good Kate Hepburn.
The script had noticeable flaws, and got a little dull in parts. On a higher note, there were a few moments that did please and even a few laughs.
Overall, the film is not as terrible as I may make it out to be. But the grass is greener elsewhere for better Katharine Hepburn comedies. Unless you're out to see as much of her excellent work as possible like myself, give "The Iron Petticoat" a miss.
The late Hepburn and Hope were an odd coupling, but they did manage to
generate a certain amount of chemistry.
Hepburn's interpretation of a Russian aviatrix is nothing more than a caricature, and the script presents a view of Russia and its people in line with the anti-Soviet sentiments of the McCarthy fifties. However, Kate does look great in her military uniform, and she is also woman enough to make you believe that Hope would fall for her. There was always something about the way Hepburn looked at a man that led you to believe he was in for a truly joyous experience.
This isn't a great film, but it passes the time.
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