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Morning Glory

Katherine Hepburn's third film, Morning Glory (1933) garnered the actress the first of her four Academy Awards, playing Eva Lovelace, a small-town girl with dreams of becoming an actress. Adapted by prolific B-movie scripter Howard J. Green from a play by Zoe Akins (who also wrote the play on which How to Marry a Millionaire was based) and directed by Lowell Sherman (She Done Him Wrong), the piece is mostly interesting because its themes have been copied so many times since. Not having much success in early days in New York, Eva gets drunk at a party given by a successful producer (Adolph Menjou) and falls into the producer's bed. This dismays Joseph Easton (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.), a playwright who's fallen for her, and who's been asked to buy her off the morning after Eva's disgrace. Hepburn is generally excellent in Morning Glory, particularly when she plays out the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet after several glasses of champagne, but the character's written as something of a delusional neurotic. Eva begins her career convinced that she's destined to become a star on par with Sarah Bernhardt and Ethel Barrymore, expressing her conviction that she'll eventually form her own company and play Shaw's Cleopatra until she becomes too old for the role, and then killing herself on stage at the end of her career. Even a period in which she plays vaudeville and models lingerie doesn't teach her anything, and when she becomes an overnight success as the replacement for the diva star (Mary Duncan) of Sheridan and Easton's biggest Broadway hit, Eva takes in the advice she's given to keep her feet on the ground and not be like a morning glory — "a flower that fades before the sun is very high" and then announces that she doesn't care if she's a morning glory. She wants an ermine coat and rooms full of orchids and says that "they've got to tell me that I'm much more wonderful than anyone else!" Which is rather disturbing, when you think about it. Over the course of the film, Eva shows signs of being a narcissist, an egoist, and sort of deranged, mainly because of Hepburn's high-strung acting choices — particularly in scenes where she's paired with the laid-back, more naturalistic Fairbanks and Menjou. There's an ugly undercurrent to the picture, and even the end of Eva's journey implies that show business is going to destroy her, despite the ostensibly upbeat conclusion.

Warner's DVD release of Morning Glory, part of their six-disc "Katherine Hepburn Collection," is nicely restored, very clean with the soft contrast that marks films of the period. The DD 1.0 audio (English, with optional English and French subtitles) is also very clean, although the volume levels vary wildly. Extras include a painfully unfunny short "Menu" (10 min.) and the early Friz Freling cartoon "Bosko's Mechanical Man" (7 min.), which offers a valuable warning against building your own robot just because you don't want to dry the dishes. Available only in Warner's "Katharine Hepburn Collection," a six-disc digipak with semi-transparent sleeve.
—Dawn Taylor

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