Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon: "Morning Glory" (1933)

Directed by: Lowell Sherman

Writing Credits:
Howard J. Green (screen play)
Zoe Akins (from the play by)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Adolphe Menjou, Mary Duncan, C. Aubrey Smith.

Released by: Radio Pictures

"Every year, in every theater, some young person makes a hit. Sometimes it's a big hit, sometimes a little one. It's a distinct success, but how many of them keep their heads? How many of them work? Youth comes to the fore. Youth has its hour of glory. But too often it's only a morning glory - a flower that fades before the sun is very high" 

On March 16th, 1934, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, unbeknownst to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, one of the most prestigious and respected records in Oscar history would well be on it's way. To this day, Katharine Hepburn holds the record for the most wins in the Best Actress category with four wins (though, it's incredibly important to mention that this feat has also never been matched by any of her male counterparts) and it's doubtful whether her record will ever be toppled.

Katharine Hepburn's four Oscars.

"My first Academy Award. I couldn't believe it!" - Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn's first Oscar win was for the Radio Pictures (later RKO) film Morning Glory (1933). It was only her third film in a career that would span 8 decades! Remarkably, to further prove the longevity of her illustrious career, it would be another 34 years before she won her second Academy Award (in 1967 for Guess Who's Coming to Dinner). Throughout her career, she racked up a startling 12 nominations (a feat only surpassed in recent times by Meryl Streep) and, in true Hepburn fashion, none of her Oscar nominations were in the Best Supporting Actress category.

I went into Pandro Berman's office, saw the script on his desk, picked it up and started to read it. Was fascinated....Went to Pandro and said I must do it. He said no. It was for Connie Bennett. I said No- ME. I won" - Katharine Hepburn

Morning Glory is the story of young, aspiring actress Eva Lovelace (Katharine Hepburn), who dreams of being the next Sarah Bernhardt. After staking out the offices of theatrical producer Lewis Easton (Adolphe Menjou), she befriends aging character actor Robert Harley Hedges (C. Aubrey Smith) who introduces her to Eaton himself, as well as Eaton's protégé, playwright Joseph Sheridan (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.). As Eva's ambition kicks into overdrive, she begins to insinuate herself into the lives of Eaton, Sheridan and Hedges, in the hopes of securing her first Broadway role- the first step on the road to eventual stardom.

Aside from establishing Katharine Hepburn as a bonafide movie star (and providing her with her first of four Oscars), Morning Glory is an incredibly entertaining fare that, in hindsight, encapsulates all that Hepburn was capable of as an actress (and, in many ways, all that she would become). Though the film is rounded out with a stellar supporting cast (featuring Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Adolphe Menjou, C. Aubrey Smith and Mary Duncan), there's no denying that Morning Glory is Katharine Hepburn's film. Though it is only her third feature film, Hepburn holds herself with such self-assured ease that it's hard to imagine she hasn't already been acting for decades. It's as though Hepburn isn't acting, such is the way she encapsulates this character. Kathrine Hepburn is Eva Lovelace.

"In 'Morning Glory' I play myself, only more so" - Katharine Hepburn

The main character of Morning Glory, Eva Lovelace, is brave, confident and vulnerable, with Hepburn's performance simply awe-inspiring. I think what, ultimately, makes this film work is that you have a 26-year old Katharine Hepburn portraying an aspiring actress on the brink of stardom when she herself was an aspiring actress on the brink of stardom (and, arguably, the greatest acting career- especially in the way of accomplishments and awards- that any actor has ever known). There are a lot of similarities between Eva Lovelace and the actress portraying her- heck, even Kate herself admitted that her character in Morning Glory was very reflective of her own ambition and enthusiasm for her craft. While perhaps not as intense or naive as Miss Lovelace, Hepburn was fiercely independent and always carried herself with confidence when it came to matters of her career. Also, like the character she portrays in Morning Glory, Hepburn was a truly great actress...and knew it.

One of my favourite scenes in Morning Glory is when a drunken Eva begins to perform for the patrons at Mr. Eaton's party. The way she carries herself as she stands on the balcony, crooning Shakespeare to a room full of strangers with a white shawl wrapped around her shoulders, always makes me think of Hepburn herself. Somehow I imagine that, in real life, Hepburn was just as self-assured as Eva Lovlace when it came to her own acting ability and would never shy away from self-promotion to secure a coveted role. There is a reason she was and remains, to this day, Kate the Great. When it came to her own ability, she was confident and always fought for the roles she wanted. She knew the range and limitations (not that she ever showed any) of her own talent and never allowed herself to be miscast or degraded to mediocre, supporting roles. She was always the star and, accordingly, reaped the benefits.

It's fair to say that Morning Glory is a humble film. It's not flashy by any means. It's a character and performance driven film and, as a result, perhaps not to the modern movie-goers taste. In my opinion, however, it's also an extremely captivating film and one of my personal favourites. 

It's interesting to note that Morning Glory has a distinct theatrical quality and, accordingly, has three very deliberate "acts", much like a stage play (with a brief montage bridging acts two and three). The first act takes place in Eaton's office, where the film's major characters are all introduced and the relationships begin to be established. The second act takes place in Eaton's apartment, where Eva's ambition (and her crush on Mr. Eaton) come hurtling to the forefront of the film in dramatic fashion. It is also in this act that we learn of Joseph's love for Eva. Between acts two and three, Eva is cast off on her own and the audience, through montage, is shown the lowly work she is subjected to while trying to become a Broadway star. The third and final act takes place on the opening night of Joseph's crowning theatrical achievement, The Golden Bough.

There is considerable commentary in regards to Morning Glory's pacing and structure- with most film historians in agreement that the screenplay (and, as a result, the film itself) is let down by an awkward and somewhat frenetic hurtle towards the finish line at the 53 minute mark. It's at this point in the film that the aforementioned montages are utilized and the film's overall character development lapses considerably. While I'll admit that the pacing of the film isn't quite right, I don't feel as though it lets the film down as a whole. As for the film's structural issues, due to the theatrical nature of the screenplay (which I detailed above), Morning Glory was always going to feel more like a stage play than a feature film. In my opinion, Director Lowell Sherman delivers on that in the best way he possibly could. Because of the film's propensity for rigid, static direction, I again acknowledge that Morning Glory may not be to everyone's individual filmic taste.

I feel that, at this point (as we reach the end of the review), I must admit that I have a recognized and long-standing weakness for classic films that were pulled directly from the Broadway stage- especially films that feature very little script augmentation in relation to their Broadway counterpart and limited use of constructed sets. I don't know why but these films (Morning Glory included) always resonate with me and I find the lack of distraction- in the way of elaborate sets and extensive camera maneuvering- very emotionally appealing. I also feel I must admit that I cry at the end of Morning Glory, without fail, every single time. There's something about Douglas Fairbanks Jr.'s character in this film that makes me very emotional. Can you blame me?!


"Nellie, they've all been trying to frighten me. They've been trying to frighten me into being sensible, but they can't do it. Not now. Not yet. They've got to let me be as foolish as I want to be. I- I want to ride through the crowd. I want to- I want to go buy me a mink coat. And I'll buy you a beautiful present. And Mr Hedges! I'll buy Mr Hedges a little house. And it'll have rooms full of white orchids. And they've got to tell me that I'm much more wonderful than anyone else because, Nellie - Nellie, I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid of being just a morning glory. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. Why should I be afraid? I'm not afraid" 

My Rating

The post is part of The Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon hosted by Margaret Perry;


You can view all the Blogathon entries by clicking the poster above.

Resources: I Know Where I'm Going: A Personal Biography of Katharine Hepburn by Charlotte Chandler (2010), Me: Stories of My Life by Katharine Hepburn (1991).


  1. Great post about one of my favorite movies! Hepburn did have an ease before the cameras, which made her characters all the more believable. I think, too, that Eve did indeed reflect Kate in real life.

    Visiting via the Great Katharine Hepburn Blogathon!

  2. Thank you so much! I completely agree with her- I think that's why she was the greatest. She was always self-assured and confident in her ability and that gave her an extra layer of believability. Thanks again :)

  3. I love your blog, I love your youtube channel, I love your taste and I really love to meet new and new people with the same addiction as I have! Congrats on your work!