Sunday, November 27, 2016

Kate Hepburn: POISON?

In an issue of Classic Movies Digest, Volume One, just released on Amazon, I discuss the period in the career of the late, great Katharine Hepburn when she was labeled BOX OFFICE POISON.  It was a moniker that she shared with other Hollywood greats but would overcome.  Below I offer a short excerpt from the newly bundled CMD Volume One, Issues 1-5.  Read it, enjoy it and hopefully you will want to check out the whole book.

Katharine Hepburn:  Box-Office Poison?

Making her film debut in 1932 with the legendary John Barrymore in A Bill of Divorcement, Connecticut born and bred Katharine Hepburn was set on a path for screen stardom.  Within a year of her auspicious Hollywood entrĂ©e, she starred in the first of her four Academy Award winning roles (Morning Glory), as well as one of the most recognized and popular films of the decade (Little Women).  She was the darling of her home studio, RKO, and her continued success seemed inevitable.  Unlike her contemporaries, she refused to play the Tinsel Town game.  She abhorred interviews and rebuffed reporters (when asked by one newsperson if she and then husband Ludlow Ogden Smith had any children, her unorthodox reply was:  “Two white and three colored”).  Her wearing of pants and masculine attire and her disdain for makeup was seen as too independent for public taste and she was tagged by some with the moniker “Katharine of Arrogance.”  Hepburn went back to the stage on her native East coast, for the not very well received The Lake.  When she returned to Hollywood, RKO cast her in Alice Adams (1935) for which she received yet another Oscar nomination, but the accolades were short lived.
In 1936, Hepburn made Sylvia Scarlett with Cary Grant and Brian Aherne, in which the non-stereotypical actress played a woman who is disguised as a young man.  The RKO oddity cost Kate a big chunk of her reputation and the studio a big chunk of change (The film lost a whopping $363,000 in Depression-era dollars).  Her period costume dramas, of the mid-‘30s, including Mary of Scotland, A Woman Rebels (both 1936) and Quality Street (1937), were flops as well, the latter two losing almost a quarter of a million dollars each at the box office.  The public was staying away from Hepburn pictures in droves.
Despite her rapidly slipping popularity, her agent, Leland Hayward, was able to negotiate a new contract with RKO and her first project under the new deal was a screen adaption of the Edna Ferber - George S. Kauffman Broadway hit, Stage Door.  The film enjoyed modest success and there seemed to be a ray of hope for Kate’s career.  Stage Door paired the haughty Hepburn with Ginger Rogers, who, commercially, was a much more popular star at the time and lucrative commodity for the studio.  As Hepburn’s status at RKO plummeted, Rogers’ simultaneous skyrocketed.  The movie’s director, Gregory La Cava, used the stars’ studio rivalry as an asset to the film, enhancing the on-screen cattiness to great advantage.  Still, the sparkling and intelligent comedy didn’t hit the mark that RKO execs had aimed for, bringing in only $81,000 in profits.
Desperate for a Hepburn hit and with fingers crossed, the studio cast her in a comedy, based on the humble financial success of Stage Door.  Again paired with Cary Grant, who had just made a comic breakthrough of his own with The Awful Truth, the actress starred in Bringing Up Baby, the story of a man, a woman and a leopard named Baby.  As inane as it sounded, that was the stuff of screwball comedies in the 1930s.  In retrospect, Bringing Up Baby is considered by some as one of the premiere classic comedies of its time, but in 1938 it was a box-office disaster, losing $365,000, and when RKO slated Hepburn’s next film to be the standard programmer Mother Carey’s Chickens, the actress saw the writing on the wall. Mother Carey’s Chickens was made but without Hepburn.  She bought out her contract for just over $200,000 and left the studio with which she had become synonymous.

Read the rest of the chapter and the others on the Golden Age of Hollywood, including The Bette Davis/ Miriam Hopkins Feud, Life of a Starlet: Lana Turner, movie reviews and behind the scenes stories and so much more in CLASSIC MOVIES DIGEST: Volume One, Issues 1-5!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hooray for Hollywood!

CLASSIC MOVIE LOVER ALERT! I'm happy to announce that I've just released my Classic Movies Digest Volume 1 BUNDLE. It is Issues 1 through 5 of my CMD eMagazine bundled into ONE VOLUME at almost HALF the PRICE than if you purchased them separately!!

Only $4.99 compared to $8.99 bought individually. Check it out and take advantage of this AWESOME deal.


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