Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Brian Aherne
Director: George Cukor
Running Time: 95 mins
Sylvia Scarlett is an American film about a young woman who disguises herself as a man in order to escape from France to England with her father, sought after by the gendarmerie, and on her travels in England, she meets a con man and a performer, and they travel the coast putting on plays, until one man comes along and changes all that.
This, you could say, is the genesis of controversial trash rom-coms. It doesn’t seem too racy nowadays, but the amount of sexual joking and themes in this were hugely out of line in 1935, and that’s why it got such a terrible reception at the time.
However, seeing as that isn’t much of a problem now, the main issue with this film is that it’s really boring. It’s split quite clearly into two parts, a comedic opening half, and then a romantic finale, and that shows perfectly how badly written this really is.
It starts relatively strongly, with a couple of good laughs and all, and while it maintains a relatively feel-good atmosphere for the first half of the duration, it’s never really that funny to watch, instead extremely repetitive and pretty dull.
Then, it descends into romance territory. My biggest problem with rom-coms, as this sort of is, is that they can rarely blend comedy and romance together. One minute it’s comedy, and the next you’re in a world of love, creating a very jumpy and unpleasant viewing experience.
And this is one of the worst examples, as the divide between comedy and romance is so evident, having one half of the film dedicated to either genre, that it’s almost like you’re watching a completely different movie in the end to the one you started with, and that really is annoying.
One other thing that struck was how bad the performances were. Cary Grant was still fantastic, and had a good chemistry with Katharine Hepburn, as would become a trademark in the future, but Hepburn herself was pretty terrible.
She was screechy, irritating to watch and overall just disappointing, and evidence of that is that this was one of the films that briefly caused her to be labelled ‘box office poison’ in Hollywood.
Overall, then, this gets a 5.6, because it was boring, largely unfunny, completely divided and had a surprisingly poor central performance in it.