Woman of the Year by Ring Lardner Jr. and Michael Kanin
Katharine Hepburn is not just the Woman of the Year, but one of the Women of the century, a legend of the big screen, an artist of genius, a glorious performer winner of an outstanding four Oscars and nominated for one for her leading role in this motion picture as Tess Harding.
Woman of the Year has won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay and is included on The New York Times’ Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list:
Spencer Tracy, the phenomenal, stupendous actor – married in real life to the equally wondrous Katharine Hepburn – stars in this film and has the role of the frustrated husband, Sam Craig.
To begin with, Sam and Tess are colleagues at the same newspaper, the man being an expert on sports and not too impressed in appearance with the woman who is famous and celebrated.
The newspaperman is looking very attentive at the legs of his colleague, when he enters an office where she is working and very soon, they become fond of each other – perhaps even in love.
The problem with love is that it is sometimes hard to define – with hindsight, one might be tempted to say that in the first phase of their relationship, the two protagonists were “in love” in the sense used by Charlie Partana aka Jack Nicholson in the dark comedy Prizzi’s Honor, but did not love each other.
Thomas Mann has a character in a short story who complains that people over use love, furthermore, they say they have no words to describe it when true love can be found only in literature, for its meaning is too comprehensive for mere mortals to experience it.
Sam and Tess get married soon – perhaps without the needed preliminary period of knowing each other – only to find that she is as busy and involved in her job and position as one of the prominent feminists in the country that she has no time for husband and marital issues.
We could think of the ultimate, quintessential expert on marriage, John Gottman and his chef d’oeuvre on the subject, The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, wherein an essential rule is to know your partner in detail, what he or she likes, hobbies, films and much more.
Another luminary in the domain of psychology that comes to mind is Tal Ben Shahar, with his insistence on the mistake we make of introducing a would be partner to an edited, improved, near perfect but false image of ourselves and the paramount importance of setting aside time to spend with our partner.
Only even at the wedding ceremony, assistants and others come to take Tess from what should be the most important moment in her life, as she prepares to say yes, there are calls and important tasks…it looks like she did not answer the crucial question.
There is an invasion of guests and the social requirements overwhelm the couple to the point where there is no marriage to speak of, although the man takes some amusing revenge by inviting his own guests to compensate for the fact that his spouse – in name only at this point – has crowded the celebration with her companions.
Tess Harding is a complex character and so is the narrative, an accomplished person, such a famous feminist that she is named the Woman of the Year, but she has reached the point where her career and public persona overwhelm and eliminate her personal life alienating her husband.
To make matters worse, she is involved with some humane, laudable work with orphans, she comes home and says to her spouse that she thinks children would be nice and he agrees becomes enthusiastic and starts worrying about his partner, thinking she is pregnant.
Nevertheless, she opens the door and brings in the child she was speaking of, who is not in her belly, growing up from the stage of embryo, but a boy of about four, that she has adopted and this a moment where mirth is combined with stupor.
It would not work, not if the adoptive mother is so busy with her good deeds that she neglects almost completely her family, spouse and child together, making Sam take a definite, abrupt step, bringing the boy back to the orphanage.
This is causing a breakdown, just as the father of the Woman of the Year is about to get married, at this ceremony Tess is attending alone and she becomes depressed, suffers when she hears the traditional vows, realizing only then that she did not listen when the was the bride.
Therefore she makes the effort to win back her beloved, but estranged husband, trying to be a…woman, cooking for her dear spouse, looking into the cook book she had received, alas, with disastrous effects – the pancakes grow beyond reasonable limits, the coffee boils down and she cannot even open the cooking stove.