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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After a disastrous preview, director George Cukor and Katharine Hepburn went to RKO producer Pandro S. Berman's home and offered their services for free for another film. Berman, who was furious at the quality of the movie, replied tersely, "Don't bother please." See more »
When Sylvia is cracking eggs, she cracks and opens the second egg twice. See more »
"Sylvia Scarlett" is like a screwball comedy that can't commit to being a screwball comedy.
Hepburn spends much of the first part of the film disguised as a boy so that she and her father (Edmund Gwenn), who are on the lam because of Gwenn's gambling debts, will be less conspicuous. They meet up with a Cockney shyster played by Cary Grant, who falls for Hepburn once he realizes she's actually a girl. Brian Aherne, playing a handsome gentleman the three come across during their travels, falls for her too. The finale involves a zany chase in which Hepburn and Aherne take off after Grant and Aherne's girlfriend in an attempt to get them back, only to discover once they've set off that they really like each other and don't much care about finding the disloyal lovers.
The fact that the film takes on gender issues at ALL makes it a curio worthy of interest, but just WHAT the film wants to do with those gender issues is never clear. Hepburn plays the character like a tomboy who's uncomfortable in her feminine skin, which is completely at odds with the girly girl she portrays in the film's very first scene. The film is never especially funny, but its overall tone is too lighthearted for the dramatic moments to make much of an impact. The editing is ragged and jumpy, which makes me wonder if the studio did some injudicious hacking, leaving elements that that would have made the film make more sense on the cutting room floor.
Critics and audiences have largely dismissed this film with an indifferent shrug, and I can't say that I blame them.
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