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When Katharine Hepburn was interviewed at length by Dick Cavett, she told a story. Most of her life, her favourite off-camera outfit was dungarees and whatever sort of comfortable top seemed appropriate. When she was working on this first film, the studio PR department kept trying to get her to wear the elegant costumes from the film off the set, instead of her dungarees and sweaters. (This was a fairly common practise, since photos of the actors at nightclubs and fancy restaurants in the gowns and clothing they would wear in the film made good PR when they appeared in newspapers and screen magazines.) She refused. They said that they'd hide her dungarees while she was on the set, so that she'd have to wear the fancy duds. She said that she said "Oh, I REALLY wouldn't do that." But they did. When Cavett asked "So what did you do?", she said "What else could I do? I walked across the lot to the car waiting for me at the front gate in my underpants." Her dungarees were returned the next day. See more »
'Katharine Hepburn' is misspelled in the credits as 'Katherine Hepburn'. See more »
Unlike some other reviewers here, I did not find the acting stagy or over-the-top melodramatic. Then again, most of the movies I watch are from the 20s and 30s, so I am used to this style of acting.
I was surprised by this movie. It breaks your heart, then never lets up. There's no light comedy to offset the drama, and there's no happy ending.
John Barrymore was amazing. My favorite performances of his have for a long time been Dr Jekyll (1920) and Svengali (1931). I've seen many other films of his (including Counsellor at Law which many people claim to be one of his best performances), but after seeing Bill of Divorcement tonight, I think this might be my most favorite performance. Sure, it was hammy, but that doesn't make it bad. Barrymore emoted his heart out, and my heart did literally ache each time he expressed his own agony and pain on screen. I was shocked to find myself in tears over his character's pain.
Billie Burke was a wonderment as well. I know her best from her slightly comic roles, such as the supercilious wife in Dinner at Eight, or her various Mrs. Topper roles (and, yes, of course Glinda the Good Witch). I didn't know she had it in her to do dramatic stuff, but she had me in tears as well on more than one occasion. She really made me feel the agony and conflict she was in, being in love with Paul Cavanagh and yet feeling pity and obligation to Barrymore.
I found the writing and the direction to be superb. One particular scene was almost sublime in its pathos: Billie Burke sitting in a chair, John Barrymore on the floor with his arms wrapped around her, his head in her lap as he cries. He can't comprehend why she doesn't want him, he asks her didn't she vow to be with him through better and worse, through sickness and in health? He asked what he did that was wrong, other than to get sick? He reminds her of what a kind person she is, how he even noticed her once stepping around a "green crawling thing" so as to not harm the creature, and he wonders if she could show pity and compassion to the green crawling thing, then why couldn't she show the same kind of compassion to him? Three-hankie stuff for sure!
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