[box cover]

Without Love

Donald Ogden Stewart, who turned Phillip Barry's plays Holiday (1938) and The Philadelphia Story (1940) into successful screen comedies for Katherine Hepburn, tried his hand again with the Barry adaptation Without Love (1945), using the World War II housing shortage as the catalyst for this romantic comedy co-starring Spencer Tracy. The somewhat screwball plot brings pragmatic inventor Patrick Jamieson (Tracy) to the home of wealthy widow Jamie Rowan (Hepburn), who has a great big house with a basement perfect for Jamieson's work on a government project. After the pair discover that they have a great deal in common — primarily an upbringing by scientist fathers and a severe distrust of romantic love — they decide to marry so that they can respectably share her enormous house as friends, with predictably complicated results. It's far from Hepburn's best comedy, and often feels a quite sluggish compared to her previous Barry/Stewart pictures, but watching her with Tracy is an absolute delight. Patrick and Jamie are smart, complicated people, and their separate decisions to give up on love aren't based on a lack of passion but, rather, on a fear of its consequences — Jamie's locked up her heart after the tragic death of her husband, and Patrick's hurting from an on-again, off-again affair with a heartless French woman. Naturally, we know that they're in love with each other long before they do, and the usual machinations of miscommunication and jealousy creates the necessary conflict, as well as the comedy. Director Harold S. Bucquet's track record is pretty pedestrian (he'd helmed the awful Dragon Seed, which starred Hepburn the year before), so a great deal of the credit for Hepburn's subtle, relaxed and multidimensional work here should probably go to Tracy, who brings the very best out of her in their scenes together. Lucille Ball and Keenan Wynn bring sophistication and wit to their secondary roles, but it's really the palpable chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy that makes the film so charmingly watchable. Warner's DVD, part of their six-disc "Katherine Hepburn Collection," is decently restored, with a lot of small specks and scratches but nicely sharpened with excellent contrast. The DD 1.0 audio (English, with optional English and French subtitles) is quite good. Extras include the 1945 MGM Crime Does Not Pay series featurette "Purity Squad" (20 min.) about an unscrupulous drug company releasing an unsafe drug, and the marvelous Tex Avery cartoon "Swing Shift Cinderella" (8 min.). Available only in Warner's "Katharine Hepburn Collection," a six-disc digipak with semi-transparent sleeve.
—Dawn Taylor

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