Oscar History

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A Year With Kate: Break of Hearts (1935)

Episode 7 of 52 wherein Anne Marie screens all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order. 

In which we ignore the movie for a beauty break

Question: Does anybody know what “Break of Hearts” means? I’m guessing it was 30’s slang for “recycled romance plotline.” Break of Hearts is another tired story which follows the predictable cycle of heartbreak and forgiveness between the Ambitious Girl (Kate) and the Troubled Artist (Charles Boyer). But who cares?

The real joy in this film is the costume design by Bernard Newman, the RKO designer responsible for every bizarrely wonderful dress Ginger Rogers wore in Top Hat and Swingtime. This is the only time Newman costumed Kate, so let us take a moment to appreciate Hepburn’s most enjoyable gowns since that moth number in Christopher Strong. [More...]


I wish I had this on DVD instead of VHS so I could show you the parade of costumes Kate puts on. Unfortunately, we have to rely on studio stills during which Kate consistently finds something fascinating to stare at off camera left.


We'll start with this natty knot. Presumably they only ever show this outfit in closeup and medium shots because when you see it in full you realize that she’s wearing a circus tent.



Now a lesson in 30’s fashion etiquette. I was always told you shouldn’t wear pajamas to dinner, especially if it’s dinner at the Ritz. Newman disagrees. I have to say this dress looks beautiful in repose (less so when she moves in it). It also gives the impression that Kate changed out of her normal pajamas and into her fancy pajamas, because she wears the robe below before she goes to the Ritz.



Best part: Under that robe on the left, she is wearing pants. Kate hasn’t worn pants onscreen since Christopher Strong, even though she was wearing them constantly offscreen. This is actually one of two pairs she wears, since in a brief marital bliss montage, we see her sport this Yuppy Cute number on the right. All told, the bicycle shorts and the pajama pants account for 5 minutes screentime total, but I’m still pointing to these as (I hope) a stylistic onscreen image change for Kate, or rather RKO’s tentative acceptance of Kate’s inherent androgyny. Yes, she’s still frilly, but score one for progress anyway.

Fashion lovers, sound off in the comments! What do you think of Kate’s costumes?

Bless Bernard Newman’s grand designs for making Break of Hearts bearable. He wasn’t good enough to save the film, but any large bow that can draw attention away from the poor plot is to my mind perfectly placed. Of course, while Kate was indulging in her glamorous side, Bette Davis was courting Oscar nominations (or not) with realism and grit. This small rivalry would really hit in 1935 (next week for us!), as Davis and Hepburn went head to head for the first time at the Oscars.

Previous Weeks
A Bill of DivorcementChristopher Strong, Morning Glory, Little Women, Spitfire, The Little Minister

2/19 Alice Adams (1935): In which Katharine Hepburn gives the best performance of her RKO career, but loses the Oscar to that Davis dame. (Available on Amazon Instant Watch) 2/24 Dangerous (1935): Part of the spinoff/competition Seasons of Bette.

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Reader Comments (5)

It's been a while since I've seen this dinosaur but I do remember her being smartly dressed in it for the most part. I do recall the pajamas at the Ritz outfit which is so outre it fits into the whole 30's glamour thing.

As for the movie it was another miss for Kate, my major recollection of it was that Boyer was an insensitive jackass and Kate a simpering doormat with impressive cheekbones. Also some good music but not enough to make a return visit.

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

"For lounging in her boudoir, this SIMPLE, PLAIN pajama" http://youtu.be/0Z0FEzE5AJs?t=2m9s

February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret

i'm so glad we're about to hit some classics because some of this early stuff seems dire. I understand the "let's talk about the costumes instead!" when a movie is bad but it seems like a lot of them have been.


February 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel - I do try to keep you all entertained, even when I'm not.

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

Bless you Anne Marie. I could never sit through this again. I never really "got" Charles Boyer and he's not particularly cute (to my eyes) either, so there's only Kate's face and the costumes to get you through it.

I vaguely recall not even knowing what time period this was supposed to be. Was it set in 1934? Sometimes it seemed Victorian in my memory but then the pajamas would clearly be off. Maybe I'm mixing it up with a couple of other stinkers like Quality Street (sorry about that in advance).

So it was both dull and vaguely confusing and I ended up hitting the fast forward button through most of it.

Even Alice Adams kind of annoyed me as I recall so I'm hanging on until Stage Door, Bringing Up Baby and Holiday. Fantastic all three but a little too late to save her from boxoffice poison. And really, after Break of Hearts and Spitfire and The Little Minister, can you blame the audience?

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave in Alamitos Beach

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