Oct 31, 2013

Katharine Hepburn, Morning Glory

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Won: Academy Award - Best Actress
How fitting and pleasantly ironic it is that the legendary Katharine Hepburn's first Academy Award-winning performance was for the role of a naïve ingénue hungry to make it big as...an actress. There is a moment in the film when Eva, drunk at a party, tells theatre producer Louis Easton, "I'm the greatest actress in the world, and I'm gonna go out and get greater, and greater, and greater..." She causes a ruckus, and when her mentor Hedges tells her she's making a fool of herself, she exclaims affirmatively, "You're talking to the greatest actress in the world and I'm gonna prove it to you!" Again, very fitting and ironic. As I watched Morning Glory, I couldn't help but be in a state of bedazzlement--and how could you not? Because here, right in front of my eyes, was the very first Oscar-nominated (and winning) performance by a young and beautiful actress who, quite like Eva, was set to become the greatest actress in the world. 

 photo Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.12.24 PM.jpgI quite liked Hepburn, and unlike other reviews I've read, I felt that she managed to make Eva a very convincingly flawed--though still likable--heroine. Yes, she can be quite annoying--and I can see how her yammering mixed with her stubborn delusions can turn a modern day viewer off. But annoying as she is, I give her kudos for making her character compelling. Hepburn is both obnoxiously and deliciously gullible as she chatters away in her first few scenes. "Just shut up," one thinks as she tries to convince Hedges (and perhaps herself) that she'll make it big as an actress someday. Later on in the film, once the struggling Eva has been whisked away by Hedges to Easton's party, we see her, in the same dress she was wearing when the film opens, nervously try to hype herself up to the Broadway bigwigs. It's kind of a painful moment, and again she chatters endlessly, and again we wish she'd shut up already, but these quirks are what makes Eva so interesting. In turn, they make Hepburn interesting. She radiates such an incredible movie-star energy that it's hard to keep your eyes off of her, regardless of whether or not you like her performance.

 photo Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.03.30 PM.jpgThat distinct and exotic trans-atlantic accent isn't too heavy here, and it's combined with a soft sweetness that's appropriate with her character's naivety. I thought that her big scene in which, while in a drunken stupor, she performs monologues from Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet was excellently acted--again we are ready to cringe, but again she fascinates. Eva is such a quirky character, and the way she behaves always puts her in the gaze of other people, and say what you will about Hepburn's performance, but at the very least the woman has a natural ability to magnetically draw attention to herself in a way that other actresses can't (looking at you, Diana Wynyard), which makes the actor-character dynamic all the more profound. Equally impressive is the scene in which she emerges for her walk of shame--it's an excellent display of embarrassment, confusion, and affection and it's captivating to see her transformation from doe-eyed girl to a more mature(ish) woman. Top it off with that gutted look she gives when Easton tells her it'll never work between the two of them, and what you've got is an all-around wonderful little performance by a woman who would one day become a legend. Her final monologue, surprisingly awkward and not quite fitting with the rest of her performance, caps off a strong AMPAs debut. Though it's not exactly the greatest performance you'll ever see, and though it's not even the strongest performance she gave that year, and though it's not a win that was necessarily a game changer for the Best Actress category, there's something about Katharine in Morning Glory that makes one understand why Oscar would end up loving her so much in the decades to follow.


  1. I haven't reacted very positvely to her the first time around...I have a feeling that I might like her more when I re-watch her...

  2. Hepburn said she was a personality before she was an actress and this was never truer than in her initial filmwork. Whether by choice or by part, her tendency to put on airs in her early roles often grates, just as it does here. 'Eva Lovelace' might have seemed fresher at the time, before such parts became a cliche, but all of the cliches are in place: wide-eyed neophyte both cocky and gullible; grandiosity/self-pity to spare; relentless self-absorbtion. Hepburn tries her damnedest but she can't overcome the part's contrivances and her brittleness reinforces the character's narcissism. I think she shows potential here but she plays the part like it's a tragedy when, if you think about it for a second, you know you'd run from the room with such a person in real-life.

    Hepburn's finesse came later, as did her great roles, and while I think her talent's clearly on display here, the performance deserved attention more than acclaim. I just don't think she was there yet.