Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are known as one of the Golden Age’s most enduring, romantic screen couples, both on and off. Despite being together as a couple for over twenty-five years, they never married. Although separated from his wife since the 1930s, Tracy never pursued a divorce, nor did Hepburn ever request that he get one so they could marry. They were deeply in love and it showed in their onscreen relationship. Tracy and Hepburn made nine films together, starting with their first one in 1942–Woman of the Year.
Woman of the Year depicts the meeting and eventual marriage of Tess Harding (Hepburn) and Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy). Tess and Sam are both journalists at the New York Chronicle. Tess is highly educated, worldly, and fluent in multiple languages. She is in charge of the Chronicle’s political affairs column. Sam on the other hand, is the sports columnist, who is well informed and articulate, but perhaps lacks the social connections and status that Tess has.
There is a funny scene at a baseball game that shows off both the differences in Tess and Sam’s personalities and their social class. After Tess proclaims that baseball be suspended during the duration of World War II, Sam defends America’s Favorite Pastime by taking Tess as his guest, despite the unspoken rule of “No women in the press box.” Obviously Sam, as a sports reporter, knows the rules of baseball inside and out. Tess on the other hand, doesn’t even know who the pitcher is and where he stands during the game. The funniest part about this scene is the enormous hat she decides to wear, which blocks the view of the frustrated blowhard behind her.
Later, Sam is a spectator at a talk that Tess is giving about the world’s political situation. He accidentally walks on stage during Tess’ speech, not realizing that she was giving her speech and not just speaking. She tries to lessen the embarrassing situation by casually asking him to sit down but he makes a spectacle of himself on stage, albeit a silent spectacle. Later, he ends up sharing a cab with Tess’ aunt Ellen Whitcomb (Fay Bainter). She encourages him to marry Tess, since he’s obviously so fond of her.
Sam takes Ellen’s advice and proposes to Tess. She accepts and they marry. As they get used to being married and each other, they find that their vastly different personalities, priorities, and temperaments are proving difficult to deal with. Tess is content to carry on her life as it was previously, including living in her apartment still, whereas Sam wants to be married and share experiences with her. Their relationship differences reach their climax when Tess adopts a Greek child without consulting Sam.
This is an excellent film and adeptly shows off Tracy and Hepburn’s amazing chemistry. It is easy to see why they “clicked” and continued their relationship off-screen. Tracy and Hepburn are both strong enough personalities that it doesn’t seem like one dominates or overshadows the other. They were definitely a “power-couple.”
I will admit that I’m not the biggest Spencer Tracy fan as I don’t particularly think his acting is the end all, be all that it’s made out to be. He’s perfectly fine and I won’t avoid him, but there are other actors whom I prefer. However with Hepburn, he’s fantastic and I couldn’t imagine her (or him) with anyone else. And I love Katharine Hepburn. I think she’s amazing and I love her unique voice.
While I love Woman of the Year and even own the Criterion, I wouldn’t say it was my #1 favorite of their films. My absolute favorite of their films is their penultimate film together, 1957’s Desk Set. But that could be because I love movies with old timey computers that are the size of an entire room, libraries, wild in-office Christmas parties, and Joan Blondell.
I have one main criticism of Woman of the Year:
Tess adopting a child, Chris, without telling Sam. It is absolutely outrageous to me that someone would adopt a child without telling their spouse. She says that she adopted Chris due to the pressure she received from her fellow Greek Child Refugee Committee members to adopt the first refugee child as a means to promote their program. The fact that she shows absolutely zero interest in raising this child and basically treats as a means to improve her career does not make Tess a sympathetic character– Sam had every right to call her out.
With that said, I really do enjoy Woman of the Year. I love the pairing of Tracy and Hepburn. They are magic in this film just like in their others. I love Katharine Hepburn’s amazing apartment with the gorgeous city views. I love her costumes in this movie and I love the scenes of the football game in the snow. Watching football games in the snow (from the comfort of your warm living room, of course) are the best. I also love Hepburn’s giant hat at the baseball game. Plus, she’s got such a gorgeous, unique face. This is an excellent film and I highly recommend it.