AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Woman of the Year
Director: George Stevens (Dir)
Release Date:   1942
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 5 Feb 1942
Production Date:   27 Aug--26 Oct 1941; addl scenes, early Dec 1941
Duration (in mins):   112
Duration (in feet):   10,268
Duration (in reels):   12
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Cast:   Spencer Tracy (Sam Craig)  
    Katharine Hepburn (Tess Harding)  
    Fay Bainter (Ellen Whitcomb)  
    Reginald Owen (Clayton)  
    Minor Watson (William J. Harding)  
    William Bendix ("Pinkie" Peters)  
    Gladys Blake (Flo Peters)  
    Dan Tobin (Gerald Howe)  
    Roscoe Karns (Phil Whittaker)  
    William Tannen (Ellis)  
    Ludwig Stossel (Dr. Lubbeck)  
    Sara Haden (Matron)  
    Edith Evanson (Alma)  
    George Kezas (Chris)  
    Connie Gilchrist (Mrs. Dunlap)  
    Grant Withers (Al Dunlap)  
    Sergio Orta (Mr. Yea)  
    Jules Cowles (Joe, bartender)  
    Jimmy Conlin (Abbott)  
    Murdock MacQuarrie (Head copy reader)  
    Jack Carr (Fat man)  
    Michael Visaroff (Russian)  
    Carey Harrison (Spaniard)  
    Julian Rivero (Spaniard)  
    Herbert Ashley (Doorman)  
    Charles Sullivan (Cabby)  
    Henry Roquemore (Judge)  
    Cyril Ring (Chauffeur)  
    Floyd Criswell (Policeman)  
    Fern Emmett (Judge's wife)  
    Walter O. Stahl (Yugoslav consul)  
    Lisa Golm (Yugoslav consul's wife)  
    Doris Borodin (Leni)  
    Ben Lenny (Ex-pug)  
    John Berkes (Paddy Doran)  
    George Ovey (Telegrapher)  
    Ray Teal (Reporter)  
    Al Seymour (Pinkie's fight stooge)  
    Curt Furberg (Foreigner)  
    Ruth Cherrington (Foreigner)  
    Amber Norman (Showgirl)  
    Dorothy Ates (Phone woman)  
    Winifred Harris (Chairwoman)  
    George Guhl (Door attendant)  
    John Sheehan (Red face)  
    Bobby Larson (Dickie Dunlap)  
    Ann Codee (Madame Sylvia)  
    Eddie Simms (Champ)  
    Duke York (Gargantua)  
    Harry Tenbrook (Mug)  
    Jack Raymond (Mug)  
    Frank Mills (Mug)  
    Harry Semels (Mug)  
    Bob Perry (Referee)  

Summary: As New York Chronicle sports columnist Sam Craig listens to the radio quiz program Information, Please , he is disgusted to hear nationally-known political columnist and Chronicle colleague Tess Harding miss a question about baseball and suggest that the sport be abolished for the duration of the war. Sam then writes a column lambasting her, and when Tess retaliates in kind, their editor, Clayton, orders them to meet in his office and stop their intramural squabbling. Sam is immediately impressed when he catches the attractive Tess adjusting her stockings, and she is equally attracted to him. Sam invites her to a Yankees game, and by the ninth inning, novice Tess has caught onto baseball and has made friends with some of the unruly fans, thus impressing Sam even more. Tess invites Sam over to her apartment that night, but he is chagrined to find out that she is having a party with dozens of her international friends. Despite constant interruptions due to Tess's busy life and the disdain of Tess's male secretary, Gerald Howe, Sam and Tess fall in love and decide to marry. Sam wants a traditional wedding with his mother present, but to accomodate Tess's hectic schedule, she and Gerald determine that the wedding must take place almost immediately and be held in South Carolina. Tess's diplomat father, William J. Harding, and her aunt, feminist Ellen Whitcomb, are only able to stay ten minutes and Tess is called away for an important call just after the wedding, leaving Sam a bit bewildered. The wedding night is equally frenetic; just as they are about to go to bed, missing Yugoslavian political refugee Dr. Lubbeck shows up and summons a group of his fellow countrymen. In retaliation, Sam calls his buddies over for a party and the apartment is in chaos until Flo Peters, the wife of Sam's bartender friend "Pinkie" learns that it is their wedding night and spreads the word to the others. Several months later, Sam and Tess are still very much in love, but are frequently separated due to Tess's political life and Sam's coverage of sporting events. One night, after Sam, who has been bristling over Tess's neglect, arrives home from a business trip, Tess is very solicitous, thus arousing Sam's suspicions. When she suggests that they have a child, he is ecstatic, thinking that she is pregnant, but instead she reveals that she has adopted a young Greek war refugee named Chris because she is chairwoman of a refugee committee. Though Sam likes the boy, he is angry and criticizes her for not giving even "ten percent" of her heart to matters at home. Their argument is interrupted by the news that she has just been named "America's Outstanding Woman of the Year." On the night of the banquet, Sam realizes that Chris is very lonesome for other children, and when Tess off-handedly tells Sam that the child will be alone during the banquet, they have a bitter argument and Sam stays home. After she leaves, Sam takes Chris to the Greek Children's home, where the boy is happily reunited with his friends. Following the banquet, Tess waits at the apartment with reporters who are anxious to photograph them together. She is stunned when she finds that his things are gone and deduces that he has taken Chris back to the home. She goes to retrieve him, but when she realizes that the boy does not want to be with her, she leaves. The next day, at the office, Tess gets a telegram from Ellen inviting her and Sam to Connecticut. She asks Sam to accompany her, but he refuses, and she realizes that he wants to end their "perfect marriage," which he says is neither. In Connecticut, Tess learns that Ellen and the long-widowed William are marrying, after years of silently loving each other. Tess makes an excuse about Sam's absence and is hurt when Ellen tells her how lucky she is to have Sam while she is still young because success not shared is empty. After the wedding, Tess drives back to New York to the apartment Sam has rented for himself. While he is sleeping, she decides to prove her mettle as a housewife and cook his breakfast, using recipes in a cookbook from Sam's mother. When he awakens, he silently watches as everything goes wrong for Tess, and when he finally speaks, a conciliatory Tess says that she wants to start over as a traditional wife. He is angered at her new "act," but she returns to the kitchen, determined to show him she can be domestic, until the coffeepot and waffle iron both overflow and she breaks down. Sam then embraces her and says he doesn't want to change her, he merely wants their marriage to come first and suggests that instead of being Tess Harding or Mrs. Sam Craig, she be Tess Harding Craig. She thinks that is a wonderful idea, and when Gerald arrives to take her to launch a battleship, Sam instead launches him, with Tess's approval. 

Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp. (Loew's Inc.)
Distribution Company: Loew's Inc.  
Director: George Stevens (Dir)
  Red Golden (Asst dir)
Producer: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Prod)
Writer: Ring Lardner Jr. (Orig scr)
  Michael Kanin (Orig scr)
  John Lee Mahin (Contr wrt)
Photography: Joseph Ruttenberg (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons (Art dir)
  Randall Duell (Assoc)
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Edwin B. Willis (Set dec)
Costumes: Adrian (Gowns)
Music: Franz Waxman (Mus score)
Sound: Douglas Shearer (Rec dir)
Make Up: Sydney Guilaroff (Hair styles by)
Production Misc: Robert McKnight (Sculptor of Katharine Hepburn bust)
Country: United States
Language: English

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Loew's Inc. 13/1/1942 dd/mm/yyyy LP11036 Yes

PCA NO: 7844
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Sound System

 
Genre: Comedy
 
Subjects (Major): Battle of the sexes
  Columnists
  Feminism
  Marriage
  Sports reporters
 
Subjects (Minor): Adoption
  Aunts
  Awards
  Banquets
  Bars
  Bartenders
  Baseball
  Connecticut
  Diplomats
  Drunkenness
  Fathers and daughters
  Greeks
  Hats
  Information, Please (Radio program)
  New York City
  New York Yankees (Baseball team)
  Newspapers
  Orphanages
  Pancakes, waffles, etc.
  Parties
  Radio programs
  Reporters
  Secretaries
  Separation (Marital)
  Sports fans
  Unrequited love
  War refugees
  Weddings
  Yugoslavians

Note: According to various contemporary sources, Woman of the Year was written especially for Katharine Hepburn by screenwriters Ring Lardner, Jr. and Michael Kanin and was purchased by M-G-M at Hepburn's request. A feature article in Time on 12 Feb 1942, summarizes information from several sources and states that the screenplay was purchased for $100,000, at that time a record for an original screenplay. The article and other sources noted that the purchase price was especially surprising considering the relative youth of the two writers [Lardner was twenty-six and Kanin thirty-one], and added that Hepburn chose her own leading man, Spencer Tracy, and insisted that George Stevens, who had directed her in two RKO films, Alice Adams in 1935 and Quality Street in 1937 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.0065 and F3.3576) be borrowed for the picture. M-G-M publicity materials contained in the AMPAS Library file on the film, however, claim that the film was expressly written for both Hepburn and Tracy.
       HR news items indicate that the screenplay was purchased by M-G-M and Stevens was hired as the director in mid-Jul 1941. Some contemporary and modern sources indicate that Lardner, Jr. originally suggested to director Garson Kanin an idea for a screenplay based on the relationship between his author and sportswriter father and New York Herald Tribune political columnist Dorothy Thompson. Kanin then suggested that Lardner, Jr. collaborate with his brother Michael on the script.
       Woman of the Year was the first of nine films in which Hepburn and Tracy co-starred. Tracy died in 1967, shortly after completion of their last film together, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70 ; F6.1975). Their film roles often re-created characterizations established in Woman of the Year , and included such popular films as Adam's Rib (1949, see above), Pat and Mike (1952) and Desk Set (1957). Many modern critics have written about the personal relationship between the two actors, and, subsequent to Tracy's death, Hepburn gave interviews and wrote about their twenty-five year love affair. Although Tracy and Hepburn did not meet until production was about to start on Woman of the Year , they were featured as characters in a scene in the 1938 "Silly Symphony" cartoon "Mother Goose Goes Hollywood." Hepburn clarified an often recounted story of their first reall meeting: Producer Joseph L. Mankiewicz introduced the two actors at a chance meeting on the M-G-M Culver City lot. Later, according to Hepburn, when she expressed to Mankiewicz some concern that she might appear too tall onscreen next to Tracy, Mankiewicz replied, "Don't worry, he'll cut you down to size."
       Woman of the Year earned an Oscar for Lardner, Jr. and Michael Kanin for Best Original Screenplay and also earned a nomination for Hepburn for Best Actress. It was selected as one of the "Top Ten" films of the year by the NYT and others. Reviews generally agreed with the NYT review which stated "the plot is formula, but the writing, the direction of George Stevens and the acting of Miss Hepburn and Mr. Tracy are all as crisp and crackling as a brand new $1,000 bill." Some reviews and many modern sources have commented on the film's surprisingly pro-feminist statements and the fact that at the end of the film "Sam" accepts "Tess" as the strong, career-oriented woman she is.
       Actor Dan Tobin made his motion picture debut in the film. Woman of the Year also marked William Bendix's first feature film appearance. The popular Information, Please radio quiz program, hosted by noted literary critic Clifton Fadiman, was broadcast from 1938 to 1948. A 1976 TV movie broadcast on CBS was based on the film and starred Renee Taylor and Joseph Bolgna. In 1981, Lauren Bacall portrayed "Tess" and Harry Guardino played "Sam" in a Broadway musical production of the story. Both the TV movie and the play were also entitled Woman of the Year.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   17 Jan 1942.   
Daily Variety   14 Jan 42   p. 3.
Film Daily   19 Jan 42   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Aug 41   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Aug 41   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Oct 41   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Dec 41   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jan 42   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   26 May 42   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 42   p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   17 Jan 42   p. 461.
New York Times   6 Feb 42   p. 23.
New York Times   8 Feb 1942.   
Time   12 Feb 1942.   
Variety   14 Jan 42   p. 8.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
 
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