Episode 4 of 52 Anne Marie is screening all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order.
In which we remember childhood fondly.
When I was 11, our school librarian told me that if you love a book enough, you have its first line burned into your brain. Being a very literal child, I immediately selected my favorite book, Little Women, and studiously memorized the first line:
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”
Later—much later than I’m comfortably willing to admit—I realized that Mrs. Krall actually meant that when you love a story, you revisit it so often that it stays with you. I think we can all agree this extends to film as well. [more...]
Favorite characters have been my constant companions, bringing comfort (“In a world where carpenters get resurrected, anything is possible”), commiseration (“I’m going crazy. I’m standing here on my own two hands and going crazy”), and even some creative ways to curse:
It’s no surprise that Jo March was my childhood hero. I was a tomboy. I was a bookworm. I put on plays in my parents’ living room. I cut my hair short, and played in the dirt, and wanted to be a writer. (Not much changed there.) In my mind, I was Jo March. And I wasn’t the only one.
Did you know that when she was little, Hepburn cut her hair and went by the name Jimmy? For all its 30’s staginess, Little Women may be the closest we ever get to seeing Kathy the Kid instead of Kate the Star. She swaggers and swears and—gasp!—even whistles. (No pants, though.) Egged on by George Cukor, Hepburn throws elegance to the wind and plays Jo March as a horror in a hoopskirt. And while we’re still a year away from Dorothy Parker’s immortal barb that “Katharine Hepburn runs the gamut of emotions from A to B,” I would like to share this particular closeup as preemptive proof that Miss Parker can shove it.
Of course, Jo March is just one of four little women growing up in this Civil War story. If you didn’t love her as I did, maybe you identified with one of her sisters: the vain Amy (Joan Bennett), the saintly Beth (Jean Parker), or the motherly Meg (Frances Dee). Little Women is a nostalgic recollection of childhood, as the four sisters grow, get sick, get published, and get married. (I actually have a bone to pick with that last one. Why would Jo marry the guy who keeps criticizing her stories? Why should Jo marry at all? A pox on Professor Bhaer! I say Jo settled.)
Little Women closes the book on 1933, Kate’s most successful year at RKO. (I know we all love Bringing Up Baby, but remember how nobody at the time did? We’ll get there, I promise.) Surprise Oscar win notwithstanding, 1934 would be a rough year for Kate. For those playing along, be warned: we’re about to see our first real stinker.
But instead of looking ahead, let’s look back a little longer. Who was your childhood hero?
Previous Weeks: A Bill of Divorcement, Christopher Strong, Morning Glory
Next Week: Spitfire (1934): In which an East Coast debutante plays a hick named Hicks and the result is about what you’d expect.