Thursday, April 23, 2015

1932/1933: Katharine Hepburn for Morning Glory

In her first of four Academy Award winning performances, Katharine Hepburn plays Eva Lovelace (at least, that's her stage name), a naive young woman from Vermont who moves to New York determined to become a successful Broadway actress. After struggling for a while, she finally gets her big break when the leading lady of a new show decides to become too big of a diva for the producer to deal with.

Okay, before I say anything else, I have to make one thing very clear: I love Katharine Hepburn. I love that she's won more acting Oscars than anyone else so far, and that she's currently tied for the second most acting nominations. She's one of my all-time favorite actresses, and she's one of the main people who got me addicted to movies. I think she was extraordinarily talented, and I would literally listen to her read a phone book if she'd come back from the dead and do it for me. So it is with all the love in my heart that I say this: I am utterly appalled that she won an Oscar for this movie because it's by far the worst performance I've ever seen from her.

I just don't get it. How could she have won for this and not for The Philadelphia Story or The African Queen? How was she not even nominated for Adam's Rib or Bringing Up Baby or Pat and Mike? Granted, I'm ridiculously biased. I mean, obviously the Academy voters in 1933 hadn't seen any of those movies yet. They couldn't see what Katharine Hepburn would become capable of later, and therefore had no way of knowing that this would be one of her worst performances. But it's not just that I think this is a bad performance for Katharine Hepburn; I think it's a pretty bad performance period.

I find her totally unconvincing. She continuously prattles on and on about nothing and expects everyone to be fascinated by her, and for some reason, they are. I guess in some ways it's kind of like her role in Bringing Up Baby, except in that movie the way she does it is actually really funny to watch, whereas in Morning Glory it's just pitiful. Then she does really weird things with her voice, like she hasn't quite gotten the hang of how to use it properly. When she's demonstrating to people who think otherwise that she can act, she's way too melodramatic, but somehow they all fall for it. And the way she handles the whole love triangle thing is just confusing. Like does she really think the slimy, indifferent producer is charming, let alone in love with her, and does she really not notice the cute, young writer pining after her? Granted, that particular flaw is probably more the script's fault than Hepburn's. Still, I think if anyone deserved an Oscar for this movie, it's Douglas Fairbanks, Jr, for managing to convince us that he's actually in love with Eva Lovelace, given how obnoxiously she is played.

This was the second time I've watched this movie, and while it will probably be the last, I'm surprisingly not that upset that I had to watch it again. The first time I was just disgusted that the Katharine Hepburn I knew and loved could give such an awful performance. But this time, since I was prepared for it to be bad, I was able to get past that and see a few small glimmers of promise. It might have been my imagination, but a couple of times I thought I caught a glimpse of the Katharine Hepburn that she was about to become, just barely coming through. Maybe the Academy members saw it, too, and though they couldn't possibly know what it meant, they found it just intriguing enough to vote for her.

This was Katharine Hepburn's first of 12 nominations for Best Actress. After this she lost each of the next eight times, before winning each of the final three. So I'll be blogging about her more later, probably in a much more complimentary manner. But next I'll be blogging about Claudette Colbert, in the first Best Picture Winner to feature a Best Actress winning performance.

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