Woman of the Year (1942)

Woman of the Year (1942), directed by George Stevens.

Two tough and witty columnists -- he a sportswriter and she a foreign affairs expert -- begin a war in print. When they meet in person sparks fly -- the good kind! It's love at first sight. When he leans in someone asks her "Anything happening?" Says she: "Plenty".

They're married before they have time to consider. The wedding night is a picture of comical frustration as international crises keep intruding.

Oddly, it turns darker. He is petulant that she has so much going on with no time for him. She adopts a Greek orphan without much thought to actually being a mother to the boy. That part is sad: the kid becomes a weapon in their battles, just like a real marriage.

She comes around and decides to be a good wife and we have the famous scene of her disastrous attempt to make breakfast. Not a proper wife yet, see? This is great physical humor, sometimes slapstick but sometimes subtle, as when she shifts just so slightly to keep him from seeing the mess she is making.

He is redeemed in the end by telling her she doesn't need to be the dutiful wife, just split the difference.

The first of nine films Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together. There is nothing like the significant looks they give each other. They met here and started a romance that lasted until he died. He was married but estranged from his wife, she was divorced and never remarried.

Franz Waxman score, Joseph Ruttenberg photography.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion. Several good extras, including two feature length documentaries: George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984) and The Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katharine Hepburn (1986).

Another 20 minute extra gives interesting thoughts on the sexual politics and role reversals in the story, and how her character served Hepburn's career comeback which started with The Philadelphia Story (1940).