Katharine Hepburn: Turner Classic Movies Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection

Katharine Hepburn: Turner Classic Movies Greatest Classic Legends Film Collection
Few performers were built for the early sound era of Hollywood as well as Katharine Hepburn. She had a deft command of the English language and a gift for the nuanced emotional subtlety that only film could convey. The women she portrayed were erudite, intelligent and strong-willed, and always infused with a touch of vulnerability that revealed itself in her films' final reels. Hollywood embraced her from the start, awarding her an Oscar for her third film, Morning Glory, and while her career jittered early on like her New England accent, she was eventually able to call the shots, working only when she wanted to, with the best talent, and she was handsomely rewarded with 12 Oscar nominations and four statues. Warner and TCM's new repackaging of four of Hepburn's classic films concentrates on the early part of her career, bringing together her third, fourth (1933's Morning Glory and Little Women), 13th (1937's Stage Door) and 16th (1940's The Philadelphia Story) films. Stage Door (directed by Gregory LaCava and based on the play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman) is a speedily paced, self-referential, estrogen-rich saga of a theatrical boarding house and its many inhabitants, desperate for work on Broadway, but lucky if they secure a few nights of a floor show. Hepburn's foil is Ginger Rogers, whose ease with the motor mouth dialogue manages to outshine Hepburn's more tentative approach. Hepburn is considerably less nuanced in Morning Glory, which covers much of the same ground as Stage Door, as a wide-eyed, inexperienced actress trying to break into the biz. While Glory may have won her the Oscar, she often seems to be acting in a different film than her more classical co-stars, delivering a comically absurd and overcooked performance, hamming up her aw-sucks charm. It's surprising that she wasn't instead recognized for her turn in Little Women, a film she completely dominates, despite a strong ensemble. While the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's seminal novel is a bit stagy, and inherently treacly, Hepburn is extraordinary to watch. The one truly great film included in the package is George Cukor's comedic masterpiece, The Philadelphia Story, an elaborately constructed, sophisticated screwball farce, where Hepburn matches wits with her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a cynical reporter (James Stewart), as the days to her society marriage tick down. This is kind of an odd package, consisting of discs that have been previously issued stacked on top of each other in a standard case. So while those who have already seen the films on DVD, or anyone hoping to get the bonus disc that originally came with The Philadelphia Story, will be disappointed, bargain hunters and those new to the Great Kate will want to take advantage of getting these four films for the price of a single DVD. (Warner)