Christopher Strong (1933)

Christopher Strong 1933 Katharine Hepburn

While at a party one night, the hostess challenges her guests to go out and find either a man who has been married for a long time and has been faithful the entire time or a woman over twenty who has never had a love affair.  Monica Strong (Helen Chandler) and her boyfriend Harry head out to find these people.  Monica heads straight for home to fetch her father Christopher Strong (Colin Clive), but Harry ends up meeting famous aviatrix Lady Cynthia Darrington (Katharine Hepburn) after they have a minor accident on the road.  When Harry finds out that Cynthia meets the requirements, he brings her back to the party.  At the party, Monica is thrilled to meet Cynthia and quickly becomes friends with her.  Christopher is thrilled to see Monica spending time with Cynthia since he thinks Cynthia is a positive influence on her, but also because he has a growing infatuation with Cynthia.  Christopher’s wife Elaine (Billie Burke) suspects her husband has strong feelings for Cynthia and her worst fears are confirmed when Cynthia comes to stay with the family in Cannes.

While in Cannes, Cynthia and Christopher take a late night boat ride after a party and they both confess that they love each other.  When they get back to the house, they kiss, which Elaine sees, but agree that they shouldn’t be together.  Cynthia distances herself from the Strongs, but can’t help but get involved when Monica comes by her home one night on the brink of suicide.  Her mother had forbidden her from seeing Harry because he was married, but now that he’s divorced, he won’t marry her because he found out about a one-night fling she had with another man in Cannes.  Cynthia saves her by calling Harry and convincing him to give Monica another chance.  After straightening out Monica’s crisis, Cynthia embarks on a challenge to fly around the world.  She wins the challenge and becomes something of an international celebrity, but she still longs for her days with Christopher.  Much to her surprise, when she lands in New York, Christopher is also in town and eager to see her.

While in New York, they rekindle their romance and Cynthia agrees to give up flying to ease Christopher’s worries.  Even though she misses flying, she soon realizes that she has a reason to stay on the ground: she’s going to have a baby.  But before she can tell Christopher the news, he finds out that Monica (who is now married to Harry) is expecting a baby of her own.  Cynthia goes to congratulate Monica, but Monica and Harry have discovered her affair with Christopher and Monica gives her the cold shoulder.  To make matters worse for Cynthia, she feels awfully guilty when Elaine personally thanks her for helping to make Monica so happy.  She doesn’t have the heart to destroy Christopher’s marriage, so she gets back in her plane to break the world’s record for altitude and commits suicide.

I thought it was odd that this movie was named after the lead male character when the women are the strongest parts of it.  This was only Katherine Hepburn’s second movie, but it really set the tone for the type of roles she’d become infamous for playing: independent, confident women with careers typically held by men.  Kate gave a very solid performance, but my only complaint was that her character is supposed to be from England, but she has no trace of a British accent.  Billie Burke and Helen Chandler were both also quite memorable, but you can’t talk about the women involved in Christopher Strong without mentioning the director Dorothy Arzner.  Just like the character of Cynthia, Dorothy Arzner was also a woman doing a job typically only held by men, so I can’t imagine a better person to direct this movie.  On the whole, I thought it had some good performances, but I didn’t think the story was anything particularly special.  If I used a star system to rate movies, I’d give it two and a half out of four stars.

It’s also worth noting that there is a scene where Katharine Hepburn dresses up as a moth, which makes Christopher Strong the second movie I’ve reviewed this month where the lead actress dresses up as some sort of insect.

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