J.D. Lafrance
Woman of the Year: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Woman of the Year: Criterion Collection

July 6, 2017

Director: George Stevens,
Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen, Dan Tobin, William Bendix, Minor Watson,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Woman of the Year (1942) marked the first on-screen pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Sparks flew both on and off screen in this memorable romantic comedy and they would go on to make eight more films together, eventually regarded in film history as one of the all-time great cinematic couples. It all began with this film and it is fascinating to see their characters falling love with the knowledge that the same thing was happening off-screen.

Tess Harding (Hepburn) is a famous reporter that breaks all the big stories for the New York Chronicle. Sam Craig (Tracy) is the newspaper’s star sports writer. Both are brilliant in their respective areas of expertise. When she off-handedly says that baseball should be eliminated on a radio program, he gets angry enough to give her a dressing down in his sports column. Naturally, she retaliates in her column and in doing so sets up a classic opposites attract story.

Katharine Hepburn’s first appearance is also the first time Sam and Tess meet in person and the first glimpse we get of her is those long, beautiful legs. We see Sam fall instantly in love with her and we do too. The first meet-cute occurs when he takes her to a baseball game and attempts to teach her the fundamentals of the game. Initially, she is adorably clueless about the game but as it progresses, they bond over it. Sam is so smitten by her that he leaves the game before it is over just to spend more time with her.

Turnabout is fair play and she invites him to one of her swanky parties populated by socialites and dignitaries from all over the world. It’s his turn to be out of his element. Watching Tracy and Hepburn navigate their respective home turfs and then deal with the other’s world is a marvel of subtle comic timing and witty banter – something largely absent from contemporary romantic comedies.

Like any great rom-com, the joy of watching Woman of the Year is seeing two people fall in love. In the case of this film, it is two very different people from different worlds – a no-nonsense sports writer and a well-traveled reporter. The chemistry between Tracy and Hepburn is off the charts and the film comes to life every time they’re on-screen together – you can’t take your eyes off them. They are naturally dazzled by each other’s looks but more importantly drawn to each other’s intellects and personalities. Their coupling shouldn’t work but it does against the odds.

Special Features:

I daresay Woman of the Year has never looked better. The black and white cinematography looks crisp and textured – amazing for a film this old. The detail is superb and this is the best this film will probably ever look.

“George Stevens Jr., son of Woman of the Year director George Stevens, talks about his legendary father and his approach to making films. He provides a bit of backstory on his father and how he was something of a maverick within the studio system.

There is a 1967 audio excerpt of George Stevens talking about Woman of the Year. He speaks highly of Hepburn and how ahead of her time she was. He recounts some fascinating anecdotes making the film.

Marilyn Ann Moss, author Giant: George Stevens, a Life on Film, talks about the filmmaker and the making of Woman of the Year. Hepburn picked him to direct, having worked previously on Alice Adams (1935) and Quality Street (1937). His pre-war films all featured strong female protagonists.

“Katharine Hepburn: Woman of the Century” features author Claudia Roth Pierpont talking about the place Woman of the Year had in the actor’s career. She was an unconventional movie star that got her start in theater.

“George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey” is a 1984 feature-length documentary about the man’s life and career with interviews with family and people he worked with as well as filmmakers that admired his work. It takes an excellent, in-depth look at his impressive career.

“The Spencer Tracy Legacy” is a 1986 feature-length documentary by Hepburn about her frequent co-star and close friend. She takes an affectionate look at his life and career.

Finally, there is a trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 98%

Website: https://www.criterion.com/films/29137-woman-of-the-year


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