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Katharine the Great, Part 2
by Karma Waltonen

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In my last column, I talked about the late, great Katharine Hepburn and recommended some of her best dramas. This week, as promised, I'm recommending my favorite comedies.

1938. BRINGING UP BABY. This was Hepburn's 14th movie, and several of the early ones are strong, but this film is one of the ones that won me over to my Hepburn worship. Hepburn plays a woman who falls in love with a paleontologist—Cary Grant. In this screwball comedy, Hepburn screws with Grant to keep him near her. There are bones and leopards and singing. And of course he manages to fall in love with her by the end.

1940. THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. This was Hepburn's third movie with Grant in two years. (HOLIDAY also came out in 1938—it's a fine comedy, but it often gets compared to
THE PHILADELPHIA STORY, which is superior.) It was also the movie that resurrected Hepburn's career after a lull (BRINGING UP BABY, while currently hailed as a masterwork, did not make much money). Originally, Hepburn starred in the stage version—she bought the rights to the film so she could make sure she maintained the lead in the film. She then peopled the cast with Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. Hepburn plays a woman marrying a man not suited to her. Grant is her ex-husband. Stewart is the newspaperman who has the odious task of reporting on her wedding. Are three men in love with her? Is she only meant for one? Yes and yes. This is one of the funniest movies ever made.

1945. WITHOUT LOVE. Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy decide to have a marriage of
convenience—she's going to help him with his work. It takes her having other options before he realizes how he needs her in more ways than one.

1949. ADAM'S RIB. Hepburn and Tracy are already married in this comedy (that doesn't happen very often, you know—the whole secret to happily ever after is that we pretend we don't know what happens after). They're both attorneys and when they end up on opposite sides of a case—a case about gender roles—their marriage might not take the strain. In addition to being a great romp, this movie is fascinating in terms of its discussion of early feminism and the legal implications of equality.

1952. PAT AND MIKE. The movie opens with Hepburn's fiancé trying to get her to act more like a lady—to wear skirts, to lose at
golf, etc. When Tracy, a sports agent, finds out how talented she is (this movie actually allows us to see Hepburn's profound physical skills), he wants her to use her talent rather than hide it. The catch? He also wants to tell her what to do.

1957. DESK SET. This was one of the first Hepburn movies I ever saw. In the days before the internet (and before computers were really up and going), people used to do actual research. Hepburn leads a group of these highly skilled people. Tracy wants to bring in a machine to do their job. It's antiquated, in that we probably couldn't want to return to the days without computers helping with research, but when I think about it as an analogy to losing other things—like books in general, I'm on Hepburn's side every time.

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Mike Thomas
Jun 23, 2010 9:35 PM
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DESK SET was the movie that attracted me to Hepburn. Any character that goes head-to-head with "The Man," in this case, an efficiency expert hell-bent on replacing people with machines, well, this is a movie to watch!

She didn't cry, she didn't break down. She just set her chin and said, "Oh, yeah? Watch me!"

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

Other Columns
Other columns by Karma Waltonen:

Goodbye -- Dr. Karma

The Dictator and Dark Shadows

Pirates and Whedon Movies: In Theatres Now!

A Touch of Cult

Our Random Favorites

All Columns

Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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