A wide-open San Francisco, circa 1890, is the background for one of Howard Hawks‘s intelligent love triangles: Miriam Hopkins is a mail-order bride whose husband-to-be is killed on the night of her arrival; gambler Edward G. Robinson offers her protection, drifter Joel McCrea offers her solace. A boisterous film with a serious undertone provided by Hawks’s preoccupation with the moral compromise necessary for survival. Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur scripted (1935).
George Stevens graduated from grade B comedies to prestige productions with this 1935 adaptation of Booth Tarkington‘s novel. Katharine Hepburn, in one of her most sympathetic and properly scaled performances, stars as a small-town girl struggling to escape her middle-class background; it’s Hepburn’s accomplishment, and Stevens’s, to show us the heart beneath this faintly unappealing character while stopping short of pushing her into sweetness. Stevens’s talent for stepping away from the plotline and creating intimate, casual, and naturalistic moments is given plenty of opportunity here, as it would not be in his later superproductions. With Fred MacMurray, Evelyn Venable, Frank Albertson, Fred Stone, and Ann Shoemaker. 99 min.