Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) and Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) are both reporters who work at the same newspaper publication. Sam works in the sports section and Tess takes on big profile assignments that are some of the most demanding at the publication. The two start to fall for each other and a romance begins. Though Tess and Sam become close to each other their relationship is complicated when Tess adopts a refugee for them to raise together as their child.
Hepburn delivers an exceptional performance as Tess Harding. Hepburn carries the film and does so remarkably well. Not only was the performance exceptional, Hepburn helped pave the way for feminism with her fashion approach. She wasn't afraid to wear pants and to put on business suits as opposed to sticking to miniskirts. Hepburn did things her own way and this helped pave the way for progress.
The story has many aspects to it that make it representative of early feminist cinema. There are many scenes in which this aspect of Woman of the Year is explored. One such scene is where Tess gives a speech about the important work being done by women during the war effort. It reflects the changing times. The film is also significant for exploring a successful woman in a prominent business role during a time when many of Hollywood's productions still showcased women only as being housewives working around the kitchen.
The film flips typical gender roles common at the time. Tess Harding is far more successful at her work than Sam Craig is (and she has a more demanding job).Sam cooks up eggs for Tess during one scene (reversing the "norm" of the time period). In one of the film's most iconic sequences, Tess attempts to prepare a big meal for Sam. Yet one giant mishap after another occurs in the kitchen as she attempts to put it together. Though Tess is a perfectionist at the workplace she struggles as a cook. Though she is an undeniably incredible woman, she isn't perfect. These aspects are great examples of the film's forward thinking feminism.
The cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg (The Philadelphia Story, Gigi) is certainly exquisite to behold and adds to the film's success. This is a beautiful looking black and white film which manages to convey the tone of the filmmaking quite well. Ruttenberg did an excellent job with the silky smooth black and white photography.
The score composed by Franz Waxman (Sunset Boulevard, Rebecca) highlights the filmmaking exceptionally well. The music fits the film and highlights both dramatic and comedic moments. The gowns designed by Adrian (The Wizard of Oz, Grand Hotel) impress and add to the film's glamorous production.
The screenplay written by Ring Lardner Jr. (MASH) and Michael Kanin (The Outrage) is funny and emotional at the same time. In addition to being an important work of feminist filmmaking, the story explores other issues with a storyline about Tess Harding adopting a refugee. This was a fascinating aspect of the story. The dynamics that are explored between the leads are effective and compelling. The story succeeds on several levels.
George Stevens (The Diary of Anne Frank, A Place in the Sun) directed Woman of the Year with great sophistication and style. Stevens is one of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers. The film is a success as both a comedy and drama. Stevens did a great job bringing to life a great feminist film with a strong lead performance from Katharine Hepburn (who takes the spotlight with both class and style). Stevens and Hepburn made a film which reflects the great leadership roles of women.
Woman of the Year is an essential Hollywood classic which is well worth experiencing. Though Woman of the Year isn't as serious as some of the post-WWII Stevens dramas like Giant or The Diary of Anne Frank, it certainly is an important cinematic milestone in the career of director George Stevens and star Katharine Hepburn. It's an impeccably made romantic-comedy that explores issues of the time while being remarkably entertaining.
Woman of the Year is presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p high definition presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 full frame. This is a brand new 2K digital restoration. The film looks incredible in high definition. The black and white cinematography is stunning to behold. The film is free of annoying scratches or print damage. Rather, the presentation is crisp, clean, sharp, and retains the appearance of natural fine film grain. This is a strong and faithful restoration.
The film is presented with uncompressed mono audio. The Criterion Collection release preserves the original theatrical sound mix and exhibition. Criterion has done an excellent job of restoring the audio. The clarity is superb with great dialogue reproduction. The audio is free of annoying hiss or damage.
The release includes a booklet featuring an essay on Woman of the Year by Stephanie Zacharek and information on its restoration.
On disc supplements include:
George Stevens Jr. (6 min., HD) - An interview with George Steven's son, who discusses his father's approach to filmmaking and his unique legacy as a filmmaker.
George Stevens (17 min., audio only) - An audio excerpt of an archival interview featuring Stevens, who discusses working with Katharine Hepburn on Woman of the Year.
Marilyn Ann Moss (14 min., HD) - An interview with the George Stevens biographer about Stevens legacy as a filmmaker: from his comedic pre-war films to his serious dramas after serving in WWII. She also discusses the feminist approach of Woman of the Year and how it was a groundbreaking effort in cinema history.
Katharine Hepburn: Woman of the Century (20 min., HD) features an interview with journalist Claudia Roth Pierpoint as she discusses Hepburn's roles and legacy as an actress from her early roles in film, her success in cinema (to her falling out of favor with audiences), to her revival in Hollywood with The Philadelphia Story.
George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1 Hr. 51 min., HD) is a documentary made by George Stevens son, George Stevens Jr. The documentary explores George Stevens filmmaking and features interviews with those who worked with him and fellow filmmakers, including Frank Capra, Cary Grant, John Huston, Spencer Tracey, and others. It explores his pre-war and post-war efforts and discusses important issues that Stevens approached and explored through his efforts.
Spencer Tracey: A Life in Film (1 Hr. 27 min., SD) is a special hosted, narrated, and produced by Katharine Hepburn. The special is dedicated to Tracey. Hepburn details his success, showcases some of his best performances, and highlights his career as an actor and his life on-screen and off.
Trailer (SD) for Woman of the Year
Woman of the Year marks the continued comeback of star Katharine Hepburn (who was starting to get noticed by audiences again after the success of The Philadelphia Story). Hepburn plays a strong willed, smart, and independent woman. The film is an important classic which is well worth discovering or revisiting.
The Criterion Collection Blu-ray release features a stunning restoration effort and a great assortment of supplements accompany the feature film. This release should be considered essential for fans of director George Stevens and the pairing of stars Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey.
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