Morning Glory (1933)

“I know that I’m a great actress — the greatest young actress in the world!”

Morning Glory Poster

Synopsis:
Upon arriving in New York, an aspiring actress (Katharine Hepburn) seeks mentorship from a veteran actor (C. Aubrey Smith) and attempts to impress a famous theatrical producer (Adolph Menjou) whose leading lady (Mary Duncan) is an incurable diva; meanwhile, a playwright (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) develops a crush on Hepburn, and feels sorry for her naivete.

Genres:

Review:
Based on an unproduced* play by Zoe Akins (who wrote the 1930 Broadway hit The Greeks Had a Word for It, which was turned into a film in 1932), this hackneyed rise-to-stardom theatrical tale is best known for providing young Katharine Hepburn with her first Best Actress Academy Award. While he doesn’t review Morning Glory in GFTFF, Peary does briefly mention it in his Alternate Oscars, where he argues that, in hindsight, “Hepburn’s performance seems like one of her worst”, and that she “played her part just as her brittle, affected character would have”. I don’t think Peary’s harsh criticism is quite valid: as always, Hepburn fully embodies her character, and having watched a number of her performances recently, I was impressed by how distinguished this particular characterization is from all the others. Unfortunately, the screenplay itself — other than possessing some typically refreshing pre-Code nuances — is pretty much a dud, and ends far too abruptly; indeed, I was astonished to see the closing credits emerging after just 74 minutes, when there was so clearly a need for an additional “act”. Meanwhile, the pacing is terribly off, with ample time and energy spent on Hepburn’s initial encounters with the other players, then an unexplained quantity of time suddenly lapsing for no apparent reason. Feel free to skip this one unless you’re an Oscar completist or a Hepburn fan.

* One wonders — why?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Katharine Hepburn as Eva Lovelace
    Morning Glory Hepburn

Must See?
No, though most film fanatics will likely be curious to check it out simply for Hepburn’s Oscar-winning performance.

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One Response to “Morning Glory (1933)”

  1. Not must-see. I’d seen this once years ago – and recall not thinking much of it except, ‘They gave her the Oscar for *this*?!’

    Seeing it again now – I still don’t think much of it, but this time I paid more attention. I figured I might as well try to take it on its own terms and see if it has a point. And, on its own terms, I think it does (which is why I also think the film is as long as it needs to be without adding more).

    The point is in its title – which is explained near the end, at reasonable length. The film could also be called ‘A Flash in the Pan’ (since that’s what’s described) though that’s not as poetic. But it’s about a particular kind of actor; someone who may possibly have a certain amount of talent – and it may be given a ‘moment in time’ to shine on a large scale – but who, for one reason or another (i.e., lack of discipline, lack of character, etc.) is destined to have a brief ‘morning glory’ career.

    In Eva’s (Hepburn’s) case, she’s kind of a loon (it becomes tiresome listening to her talking self-involved nonsense) and not all that stable emotionally. It’s very questionable how much actual talent she has (at a party, she performs some Shakespeare – Hamlet (!) and Juliet – badly) but, when given a sudden ‘Shirley MacLaine-esque’ opportunity, she somehow manages something that surprises everyone. Still, as the film ends, we can tell from what Hepburn is exclaiming that her character is more or less doomed to obscurity.

    Though the film’s point is a valid one, I still don’t find it all that compelling. And at times – for the sake of dramatic effect – it’s all a bit much. I still can’t see Hepburn’s work here as Oscar-worthy.

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