Katharine Hepburn: 100th Anniversary Collection

Katharine Hepburn: 100th Anniversary Collection
It’s the great Kate’s centenary year and to celebrate Warner has released this handsome six-disc collection of Hepburn in all her glory. True, many of her flagship features are conspicuous by their absence but most of the films have at least some residual interest for their contribution to her legend. First up is Morning Glory, in which the star plays a wannabe actor who insinuates herself into theatrical royalty; it’s a little Polyanna (and points forward to All About Eve) but it’s pleasant enough to watch the star cop her first Oscar. Next is Sylvia Scarlett, in which she plays a con artist/travelling actor who poses as a boy for nebulous reasons. The jokes aren’t quite there but the set-up, which makes for serious sexual tension with con Cary Grant and artist Brian Aherne, is pretty damned interesting. It had a big cult following in the ’60s and when you see it you’ll know why. Meanwhile, Dragon Seed is a somewhat drippy enterprise from a Pearl S. Buck novel in which valiant Chinese citizens persevere or fight back against the invading Japanese. There’s actually not much Kate action here but there are plenty of Hollywood character actors trying, and failing, to convince us they’re from China. It’s a strange curio, in terms of wartime propaganda, but not exactly gripping cinema. No Hepburn collection would be complete without a turn with frequent partner Spencer Tracy, thus Without Love fills the bill nicely. The pair get together when Tracy sets up scientific shop in Hepburn’s basement; they marry out of convenience until something more is stirred. A terrific Donald Ogden Stewart script and support by Keenan Wynn and Lucille Ball make this pretty solid entertainment. Only marginally less interesting is Undercurrent, in which Hepburn marries the wealthy Robert Taylor only to find that he’s slightly nuts — obsessive behaviour and possibly murder are part of his portfolio. The climax to this melodrama doesn’t quite live up to the build-up but there are doom-y resonances that make it worth more than a passing glance. Last and most disappointing is The Corn is Green, in which the theatrical chestnut is given the ’70s TV movie treatment. The star plays an indefatigable teacher of Welsh miners who coaxes one student all the way to Oxford. The material is threadbare to begin with but seems especially dumpy here despite direction by Hollywood master George Cukor. Still, this is a collection well worth having. (Warner)